I worry that deep into next semester, I will forget the care free times of our first summer.  How young and naive we were!  Stressed over our very first medicine exam.  Driving into the city once a week for cadaver lab.  Listening and re-listening to our pathophysiology lectures. How adorable!  I don't want to forget having to prove I could take a blood pressure.  I don't want to forget those fun times role playing for psych class.  Oh, innocence!

I only feel nostalgic for last week because they sent us the schedule for fall.  It makes this summer look like day camp.  We will be doing six classes simultaneously with a finals week that looks horrific.  I don't want this to come off as complaining.  I am nervously excited for it all.

Already I feel our class is well bonded through our shared suffering and triumphs.  PA school is a strange crucible.  All of our classes are in the same lecture hall with a large lab across the hall.  The room is just for our class and quickly became pretty lived in.  34 people have moved in and slowly accumulated snacks, drinks, blankets, and pillows.  The room is equipped with several microwaves and a full fridge.  There's also  a water kettle (my favorite part) and coffee makers.  (We are a well-caffeinated bunch.)  There are long days and short ones.  Days with labs, days with few breaks, days where we all run to our mailboxes to check if grades are back. 

So, I will thoroughly enjoy my two week summer break, and try not to worry about the fall.  Hopefully.

1st Week- The beginning

Last week I learned that I can prepare for something for seven months and on the day before, still feel unprepared and panicked.  But, once I calmed down and collected myself, school started.  In the next five (now four) weeks we will complete- no rest for the weary.  Our first classes are anatomy, public, health, patient assessment and ethics. A good mix and a good intro.  Once a week we have a cadaver lab.  That is a new experience.  The last cadaver lab I had was in paramedic school and then we did intubation and did cricothyrotomy (the ol' knife and a straw routine) on them.  This was way cooler with actual looking at things and touching things, and....okay, gross.  Yes, I know. 

First week in, and I brought my lunch every day (a fact, I'm very proud of), made (roughly) 33 new friends, and been to two happy hours.  I've written 1/4 of a paper, done research, taken 4 quizzes, and made an alarming number of flash cards.  Can't wait for week two!

Transition week

In September 2009 I remember sitting on the floor of my empty apartment, having just called the cable company to cancel my service. I was nearing the eve of my departure to England.  By that time, I was feeling a little less than zen about the whole idea.  The feeling is hard to articulate: a happiness, an excitement, a sadness, a dread. I want to have a stout heart and a calm mind, but both will fail at least for a few minutes in the execution of wild-ass plans. Yesterday I felt that 'little less than zen feeling" and I described myself as "An Ellie 8 [out of 10]...which is a normal person's 12."  But now that I am here and the cats didn't pee, throw up, or poo on the ride down, I feel a lot better. We all have a lot to get used to.

In the last week I had two last days at work, a great going away party, and several meals and several more drinks with people before I left.  Yesterday I packed up the last of my essentials and the cats and then we all cried (they, much longer than I, as when you're taking cats to anywhere but the vet, it's hard to explain it to them).  But, back then, when I stood up in my echoing apartment, I took a last look, a deep breath, stopped feeling sorry for myself and got on with it.  Similarly, yesterday I put the car in gear, took the break off, a deep breath, drove away and got on with it. 

14 May 18

When there's nowhere else to dry out the tent.  An unspoken perk of the job.

8 May 18

The medic garage.

POTD 10th Anniversary

I realized today that this is the 10th year I've been doing the "Picture of the Day" project on the blog.  That makes May the best month for the blog for 10 years running.  In celebration, I went back and labeled all of the old POTD posts with the tag "POTD". Clever, I know.  So, if all one of you wants to go back to 2008 and see what I took pictures of in May, all you have to do is click that little "POTD" at the bottom of this (and many posts) scroll down and hit "More posts" over and over again.  It seems that basically for the last five years, the blog has pretty much been picture of the day posts.
If you're a blogger (which no one is anymore)  I would encourage you to start your own pic o' the day as it is pretty cool to look back over 10 years and see what I was up to in Mays past.
(I did just discover that the 2008 pics have to be clicked on.  Maybe if I get bored some day I'll fix this...)

7 May 18

The old homestead.

EMS is

EMS is...

cold dinners
missed sleep

split seconds
golden hours

chest pains
back aches

filthy houses
narrow stairs

dead on toilets
dead behind doors

woah, look at that!
talking off the ledge


knowing too much
knowing too little

making cots
squeezed hands


held pressure
held breath

all eyes on you
public scrutiny

high expectations
bull shit

feeling cool
looking dumb

driving too fast  
getting there too late

panicked parents
happy babies

hidden sorrow
unbridled joy

Orientation days 1-3

There is now a cast of 33 new characters in my life.  My classmates and future colleagues.  The 33 other people who, like me, are thinking, "I hope I can do this".  They will help me learn, help me grow, and build me up.  I hope I can return the favor

Orientation, was like many other orientations I have been to:  awkward, stressful, and extremely boring. Administrivia has never been my strong suit.  Also, I just about ran out of business attire within the three days, so I guess I still have some shopping to do.  My ongoing closet emergency.

I have never been simultaneously built up and broken down before.  It is an odd and confusing sensation that has (actually) kept me up at night.  The entire three days vacillated between welcoming us, telling us we were great, and gearing us for the tsunami that is about to break upon us.  "Congratulations on being here. You should be proud. This will be the worst summer of your life. Don't think about quitting- you're going to be okay but if you think the summer sounds bad- just wait until the fall. It's amazing that you're here and we're so happy about it. But this will be very difficult and you always feel like you're behind and you will never catch up. Kiss your family goodbye.  And if you miss one day you might as well quit.  But everything will be fine. Are you thirsty?  Drink from this fire hose."  And so-on along those lines.

There was the inevitable task of going around the room to introduce everyone. Give credentials, give a "fun fact' about yourself.  Oh, Lordy.  By my turn, I had forgotten my credentials and realized there was absolutely nothing interesting to tell about myself.  We did avoid awkward ice breaker activities, but that may have been easier than trying to look like I belonged there.  I did feel that no one was being false, and everyone was kind, intelligent, and ready for action. All are happily nerdy and proud of their academic accomplishments, as they should be.

So, I remain cautiously optimistic.  Terrified, excited, and more anxious than I am comfortable with.

6 May 18

The office.

4 May 18

After 3 days of orientation to PA school, Lola needed some pets.


I spent many months convincing myself that it was a good, financially sound, and safe idea to commute to school.  After all, it's only every single day for a year, and then pretty much every single day for 14 months after that.  I would only put 30,000 miles on the car (in the first year) and I would definitely love getting up at 5 am.  I can be a morning person!  It's only an hour drive (in theory and only on sunday afternoons and weekdays at midnight) and the traffic is predictable.

This PA journey will force me to change many things about my lifestyle.  Mostly it will dictate when I sleep and when I wake, and what I do with my spare time, and what and when I eat, and how often I can go kayaking, and how much I can spend on everything, and that's all!  These lifestyle changes are what worry me the most about school.  I am used to being in charge of me, but now I'm going to have to let a lot of stuff go.  Pretty much everything I've gotten used to in the last 10 working years of my life will be null and void.  I used this argument against moving.  Why add more stress?

Thankfully I have been talked off the ledge and will be moving into a townhouse closer to school with two highly motivated classmates.  They will keep me on the straight and narrow and I will ask them to say things to me like: "Ellie, we have to study now."  "Ellie, we have to go to school now." "Ellie, don't eat a dozen donuts from stress." "Ellie, you can kayak for 2 hours and THAT'S ALL."  "Ellie you can play halo for 30 minutes."

Oh god, what have I gotten myself into. 

Blogiversary 13

13th anniversary: the lacy one!  Just so you know...googling 'lace' is a bit of a risky business.  So, I stole this picture from googling 'lace doily' and I was happy to see that there still seems to be a market for doilies.  Also 'doily' is one of the weirdest words in English. 

Anyway.  Today is my 13th blogiversary.  I celebrated by putting up a bunch of posts last week. I know you all enjoyed them...right?!  I am pretty excited that the blog will be reverting back to it's original mode of 'student blog'.  Sure, I think the first year of PA school blogging will be more apologizing for not not taking the time to blog, but it could be filled with plenty of new things up to and including (hopefully) me suturing an orange.  Or more likely a grapefruit because that is a citrus that I want to eat after I've finished stabbing it. 

So, happy anniversary, blog!

Start Date

I took today to catch up on some blogging I should have done a long time ago. So...there is Greece (that should have been done in August) I do need to write some EMS stuff, but, maybe in like 4 months. I have been trying to get a list of things that need to be done and then finished before school starts.

After a couple of months fretting about how the school probably forgot about me and/or kicked me out already, I finally got news of the start date. Early June I will start my adventure/sentence. In May we have a three day orientation with two hours set aside for 'instrument purchasing'. Ooh, let the spending begin! I am hoping that my 12 year old stethoscope will pass muster as it is probably the only useful medical instrument I own at the moment.  It was a relief to hear something from school as it had been a while.  Although it did open up another little bit of panic as now I need to collect things to get started like vaccine records and get a physical, and enough nice clothes for a three day orientation.  

In the mean time, I feel like I have been grad school nesting. I know grad school isn't a baby, but the knowledge that I will have no money and little time during school as made me want to get all of those little things done before I can't for a while. From reorganizing the attic, to cleaning window blinds, the list of unfinished little things could never end.

But I do love a good list and crossing things off of it.

Rio Grande

This December I had an opportunity to visit a part of the country I'd never seen before. My friend needed a road tripping companion to get from Ft. Hood, Texas to Tucson, Arizona via Big Bend National Park. My immediate answer was yes. With two kids and a dog? Double yes.
It wasn't long into our trip before we started seeing huge landscapes, distant hills, and oil fields. We also passed miles of pecan trees and tiny town after tiny town.  Little did I know we were heading to Terlingua Texas, a town of only 58 (according to the 2010 census)- probably the smallest town I've ever been in.  We had dinner- a sit down dinner- in a gas station because that was the only restaurant we could find.
Santa Elena Canyon

Terlingua is the closest town to the entrance to Big Bend, and when we left to enter the park, we still had a 40 mile drive to the first ranger station.  The size of this area is not something that this east coaster could comprehend. Miles and miles of isolation.  I say isolation and not 'nothing' because the area is full of life and majesty.  The dry, unforgiving landscape is home to many unique plants and animals.  The bend of big bend is a bend of the Rio Grande river which snakes along the border of Texas and Mexico for almost 900 miles.  In our short visit we saw a black bear, coyotes, road runners, and many other birds.
In the southwest corner of the park the river comes through a wall of rock at the Santa Elena canyon and is one of most amazing things I've ever seen.

The next day we drove along the river through Lajitas, TX (who can boast a former beer drinking goat as mayor) to Presidio, TX.  In this drive, we felt like we were in a movie.  Sharp red cliffs, spectacular views of the bending river, and sunrise to boot- it was simply lovely.

These two days gave me my first look at Mexico.  The first look at where everyone supposes this wall will go.  After being seeing it for myself, the whole topic gets me feeling pretty emotional. Scarring that landscape with a wall would be a crime against nature and our country.  After seeing it, a wall feels like a right-down treasonous idea.

That said: go. Get down there and see it for yourself.  Ponder this:  if an immigrant is not deterred by a vast, desolate desert and a wide river, will a 20 foot wall do the trick?

Milos et al.

We traveled by boat to Milos next.  Milos is famous for it's bleached white beaches, distinct rock formations, and mineral veins.
We went to more beaches than I can count, each more beautiful than the next.  The most bizarre we visited to was accessible only by climbing down the cleft of a cliff using a rope hastily nailed into the rock and an aging wooden ladder. We must have lost our minds- the sand rained down on my head while I watched others panic at the top of the ladder and give up on visiting this exclusive beach.
Prassa Beach
A visit is incomplete without a boat trip around the island to see the cliffs.  Kleftiko is one of the best places I've ever seen.  Snorkeling with tropical fish in the warm waters and eating fresh watermelon on the boat is a wonderful memory. This outcropping is only accessible by boat and well worth it.
The next day we took a ferry to Kimolos where we enjoyed an exclusive beach and a charming medieval town.  This place is a bit tricky as we couldn't take our rental car, the buses are small, and there is only one taxi service that will be overtaxed as soon as the ferry lands.  But we did manage to get into the town of Chorio where we had an awesome authentic linner while at a small table in an alleyway.  Prassa beach is simply gorgeous.
Back in Milos we visited an ancient Christian catacomb near Plaka and enjoyed the sunset.  This is where the Venus de Milo was excavated and then...stolen.

On our last day we visited several beaches along the north coast of Milos, each more spectacular than the next. We peaked at Sarakiniko Beach which isn't really a beach but a pure white rocky landscape, carved by the waves. It is blinding, beautiful, and so unusual.   Like nowhere I'd ever seen.  It was white as snow.

After we left the islands, we had a whirlwind tour of Athens.  The real must-see being the Parthenon and surround.  One of the oldest buildings in the world, it was a shrine to Athena, a mosque, a Christian church, and, sadly, the site of much vandalism and stealing of antiquities.  The Acropolis museum was great although missing a few pieces I saw in London.  Both sad and interesting.  My friend then gave me a tour of central Athens which has a lot to offer! We could have saved all of our souvenir shopping for here! We had a drink at a fun bar and wandered the ancient streets until our bus back to Thessaloniki.

The Islands

We met up with my Greek friend at her home in Thessaloniki.  In her typical style, we hit the ground running- starting by whipping through the ancient narrow streets to an overlook where we could take in the entire city and surrounds.  Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to explore the city properly but it's good to have something to do in the next visit.
We then flew down to Santorini (or Thera, or Thira).  The quintessential Greek island, which did not disappoint.  To say it is beautiful is a gross under-description of the island.  Crystal clear blue waters, volcanic landscapes, and white-washed towns clinging to the edges of sheer cliffs.
We attempted to catch the famous sunset at Oia and I was struck by the sheer number of people willing to camp out for this daily event. It was beautiful, but I think everyone forgets that the sun sets all over the island with equal grandeur and far fewer people.
The town of Fira is where we took a boat to the neighboring volcano, it's greatest eruption is responsible for the harsh cliffs of Santorini, as well as the ending of the Minoan civilization.  Fira is famous for its never-ending switch back road to the old port.  We walked down, on treacherous smoothed cobblestones and past the business end of many donkeys.  But walking was still preferable to taking the donkeys themselves as you can't help but feel sorry for them, trudging up and down this path in the heat. There is a perfectly good cable car about 20 feet away so which begs 'Why?'

The volcanic island was very cool (well, hot) and as windy as any place I've been. On the way we all jumped out of the boat to swim in a hot spring.(exhilarating, but scary!)  The volcano itself is still considered active, last erupting in the 1950's. The sulfur is strong on the air of the island, the heat can be felt through your feet, and there are several instruments dotted on the barren landscape to help predict another catastrophic eruption.

We visited several  beaches along the coast of Santorini. Volcanic black beaches, red beaches, and more traditional looking ones. I can still hear the waves methodically smoothing the large rocks on the red beach.   While it is cliche to visit this island, it feels like the right place to start.  Parts are a real tourist trap, but the small whitewashed towns, the unique beaches should not be missed.

Mt. Olympus

Our first adventure outside of the area of our camp was to Litochoro. This town lays in the shadow of Mt. Olympus.  We came here to hike the Enipeus Gorge and say hi to Zeus.  We met our guide and took a taxi to our starting point, about half way up the mountain. We started by visiting an old monoestary that has been destroyed many times, lastly during World War II. Two monks still live there and are slowly rebuilding it to its former glory.  We were kindly provided skirts for our visit.

We hiked down to the cave of St. Dionisis where the order started. There is still a small church here and a spring providing the coldest, clearest water I'd ever experienced.  We crossed the river of the Gorge several times. At lunch we stopped for a dip in the freezing waters which was bracing to say the least. The water was crystal clear and we could watch tadpoles and frogs darting between the sharp rocks. It is a beautiful place where I would have stood happily for the rest of the day.  But, as we were miles from anywhere, we moved on.

From here the trail became more difficult, or, at least, my lets and heart decided it was more difficult. That plus the 96 degree weather...I'm pretty sure I died for a few minutes at some point.

There we many switch backs and very rocky and slippy conditions, but the vistas were well worth it. The triplet peaks of Olympus peeked out from behind the gorge walls at every turn and the river sounds waxed and waned as we walked toward town.    We finally emerged from the woods and stopped immediately at a bar where we sat at table where the river flowed between our feet, the cold, now a welcome numbing agent.

We had a gorgeous dinner with the hiking group, trying many Greek things, and had especially memorable homemade taziki. After sharing a spot of raki (a strong digestif made from the bi-products of wine making) it was time to head back to Veria.  I was very happy to have seen this more remote and mountainous part of Greece.  It was simply beautiful and everyone we met was exceedingly kind.