I told myself I would get my revisions done RIGHT AWAY. Maybe even the very day I defended.
But I did enjoy a Second Line of friends that showed up at the house the night I defended, playing a variety of musical instruments and singing “P-H-D! P-H-D!” All the way down the street to our neighborhood watering hole.
I was definitely distracted the morning of my defense. So much so, that I didn’t notice the Iphone camera was on “video” and not “photo” — hence the ridiculousness in my attempts to document my outfit.
See what I mean? (Don’t blink!)
I also wore shoes. (They are cute, though I did rub some skin off a toe on my right foot.)
For accessories, my glamorous jewelry designer friend, Georgia, came by with a box filled with hand-made, one-of-a-kind pieces. It was her personally designed collection of most favorite sets.
I’m calling a design trend: a Georgia-designed jewelry set is the key to dissertation success! (Movie stars, take note!)
In the end, I wore a set of her silvery pearls: a double strand necklace and simple, dangling earrings. Though I rarely wear bracelets, I could not resist one which bore a quotation: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” When I asked her about it, she told me that it quoted Goethe (natch to G: stylish, thoughtful, and readily quotes German philosophers!)
The bracelet is seen in the mirror at Galatoire’s, when I took photos of my bloody arm.
Between you and me? There was one more detail of my outfit that made a big difference. UNDERGARMENTS.
Of COURSE I wore Spanx. I’m not a heathen, forgoodnesssake. But brassieres? Well, it’s been years and years of asking recommendations, measuring and estimating sizes, trying and retrying… with a small fortune invested in wires, straps, and molded cups that don’t seem quite right. Enough was enough.
So, the day before the defense, I went to Basics Underneath. A shop roughly 200 steps from my front door that I had never before visited. If there is ever a reason to shop local, good gracious: LET THIS BE IT.
Because all that measuring?! Meaningless! Bra fitting is the sort of thing that requires at least two other women grabbing, twisting, and juggling you — showing where straps should sit, pointing out what flesh goes in what places, and discussing the finer points of cup shape and hook positioning. Sure, you CAN measure. I measure 36D. In the past few years, I’ve worn 36D, 36C, 38D, and 38C off and on in different styles, based on those measures.
But it turns out I’m actually a 32DDD. Also called 32F.
It’s a big difference. I’ll illustrate.
This is me, in a picture of the defense dress on the day I bought it. I was wearing a bra I would have, at the time, called “very supportive and well-fitted.”
And here I am, in a still photo taken out of the video Will took on the morning of the defense. See how I have a waist?
So what did I learn from my defense? That all women need bra fittings. Just like it took me 6 years to finish the PhD, it took me more than 6 years to walk 2 blocks to learn how to wear a proper brassiere. (The bra one is the embarrassing number.)
We went to the Zoo this morning for a birthday party. It was in the carousel room, by the famous Zoo Carousel: a one-of-a-kind delight filled with beautiful animals of every kind.
Because it was a party, many kids were getting on and off without parents immediately with them (Will included). After a good hour of carousel riding, playing with friends, and catching up with other families, I noticed Paul and Kate were walking over to go back on the Carousel. I was talking to friends and making sure Will was drinking water; I didn’t notice them on the ride.
I did notice, however, when the ride started briefly and then stopped. It had turned enough that all the riders (who had filled the front of the Carousel) were now in the back. If you had a kid on the ride, you couldn’t tell, because they were all in the back.
And the back was hard to see because of white mist filling the air. Were the water misters turned on high?
I noticed a friend, a Dad of classmates in both Will and Kate classes, walk up to the gate of the ride and look up to the canopy. He looked uncertain. I took a few steps to the side. Were Paul and Kate there?
Just then, Kate came around and took my hand. Daddy told her to find me. Paul was throwing kids over the gate, parents were pulling their children off.
Then I saw the flames. In the center of the column.
The smoke was still hazy and white, so it was easy to see the flames.
A moment later, Paul walked out from the back. No one else was on the ride.
He came out to me and Kate, then turned to take this. You can hear me comforting Kate in the background, encouraging her to step back. She was a little freaked out, as were other kids, though everyone was (thankfully) absolutely fine.
The video shows the hazy smoke and flames, then the dark smoke that poured out of the canopy (we assume when the fire hit grease?)
It happened SO FAST, faster than I ever would have imagined. Paul recognized the smell of the burn inside the engine (apparently it smells similar to burning pinball machine parts) and was pulling kids off the ride before the smoke was too overwhelming. He wasn’t the only one; other parents were doing the same. Thankfully, everyone reacted calmly and quickly, no one was panicked or at risk.
The fire department came to the Zoo and handled the fire. We don’t know how extensive the damage; it remained confined to the center column. (Paul’s worry with the kids was that it was catch on the canopy.)
The Zoo protocol may not have been entirely worked out, but eventually the area was closed off. Still no word in local media about the incident. Hopefully the damage was very minimal and the Carousel will be open again soon.
Right before I started speaking, I brushed up against the edge of the podium, opening up my arm to bleed freely during the presentation. How’s that for sacrificial symbolism?
The defense itself went fine; I was exactly on time (20 minutes) with no major embarrassments in anything I said or did (except, of course, for the whole blood thing). My dress was not tucked into my underwear. Phew.
The questions were not unlike what I had predicted to Paul the night before, when he pleasantly listened to my presentation AND (this is a big, important and) suffered through my thought process about what I’d left out of the presentation (what I’d set UP for questions) and what questions I was expecting.
Yes, these things are really thought out.
So, I answered questions and listened to discussion, and took some notes. The things you’d expect. There were no big surprises and parts of the discussion were really fun, in that academic-geeky-love-research sort of way.
I was asked to leave for “deliberation” and spent about 3 minutes in the hallway where everyone asked why the cat had mauled me that morning and left me bleeding openly through my defense (now they know the evils of the podium). After a few minutes of people saying good job, my committee chair came out to say, “Congratulations, Doctor!” and invite me back in.
“We were having a really great conversation, Holly, and we wanted you to join in.”
Hearing this is much better than, “We’re bringing you back in to talk about the extensive revisions we feel you need to do.”
In short, I have to add a table to my dissertation before turning it into the Dean for binding and copy-writing. That’s REALLY NOT BAD. In the scope of things they could have asked me to do, this is sort of the academic equivalent of coloring in the picture before turning it in.
One would think that I’m filled with relief, and it’s true that it feels wonderful to be through this, though I’m really not sure yet. Maybe it just takes a few days to sink in.
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Somehow or another, the Dean’s Office accepted my request for defense. It’s been a week since the papers were delivered. Without the email equivalent of a Hogwart School Howler appearing in my Inbox, I am left with the assumption that this is actually happening. I’m defending my dissertation on the 15th*.
All in all, I feel pretty good about it. I’m ready. Today, I washed my face with shampoo. This sort of scatter-brained behavior can only be a positive sign of my fitness for academic life.
Still, I’m nervous because I want to look sharp. Something that comes across neat and clean, but not too pretentious or flashy for our 9am presentation. Suits are really out for me (they never fit right) so I’m left looking for some sort of outfit that makes me seem like a suitable Wonder Woman – Mother – International Professional – (hopeful) PhD in a creative, modern manner.
In short, I’m hoping to avoid the mid-presentation discovery that I’ve tucked my skirt into my underwear… but in the event this does happen (because I’m trying to face the truth that this is a very real possibility) I’m hoping that the outfit is sharp enough that I can recover a little bit of dignity.
Thanks to the shopping help of a friend, I brought home this plain shirt dress (which, FYI, is on sale at Macy’s):
What do you think? Does it work?
Here’s an unflattering picture of me in it, holding up the shoulders because it needs to be taken in a bit (yes: I’m short).
The photo is compliments of Will and my phone:
But here’s the question: how do I dress this up?
Links to suggested looks: accessories, jewelry, shoes, make-up, whatever. All are appreciated.
*Well. As long as the storm-formally-known-as-Gaston manages to stay out of the Gulf.
You know the story, right? International health... work all over the place... drag my kids around in sacks through villages in Central America... yadda yadda. I decided to go for another degree, so in 2004 we moved to New Orleans with no intention of staying.
And then *blink*blink* New Orleans is a completely different place and we just can't leave. Suddenly I'm on TV talking about immigrants and health and Paul is starting a company. Or two. His side is high-tech, mine is community health and our lives are yearly evacuation, regular celebrations, and nonstop work here, there, and everywhere. Our door is always open. I only ask that if you decide to go ahead and make yourself that mint julep, you make one for me, too.