Sunday, April 30, 2006

Really? On a Sunday?

“Chienne!” I scolded. “You’re a lady!” We were halfway through our morning walk, moving along at a brisk pace, when she made a friend. A little white puff of a dog had been running around a block ahead and she started to move more quickly to meet him.

“This is not a jogging type of trip.” I huffed out as I was tugged along behind her. I wasn’t worried though – the dogs here aren’t overly friendly. They’d tend to touch noses, sniff a bit, then wander off so we could move forward along our route.

This dog was friendly. He pranced along next to her. Flirting, I decided. I giggled as they ran toward then away from each other, lifting their feet up high and tossing their little ears. How sweet.

“He likes you.” I told her when she came near me. “Because you’re so pretty and smart and nice.”

Then he started to give what I’ll call inappropriate kisses (and I didn’t know dogs engaged in such behavior, to be honest.) This is when I started to get concerned. Then came the reminder that nice girls don't allow such liberties so early in the relationship.

Deciding my dog was apparently not a lady, I decided that my maternal role demanded I get rid of this forward little pup.

“Hi. It was nice of you to join us – hey! No! – but perhaps it’s time you head home.”

Seeing my words were having no effect, I tried to get between the two animals. I failed.

“OK, look, little dog. Even if you were tall enough, that’s not going to do any good.

"Get off of her!

"She’s been fixed.

"She doesn’t like you that way.

"Enough already!”

We arrived back at my house and he was the first one in the door. I didn’t mind, meeting Chienne’s what the hell? look with a raised eyebrow.

“I wasn’t the one who flirted with an over-sexed animal.” I informed her loftily, walking into the kitchen to fill a new bowl with water for her boyfriend.

“We’ll just look at his tag, call his parents and take him home.” Except I found, with no small amount of dismay, a reflective tag but no identification hanging from his bright orange collar. No name, no address.

“He was looking for a fling!” I said to Chienne, still enjoying myself a little too much. “There’s no hope of a future with this one. He won’t even tell us who he is.”

I called my parents to see what I should do. Mom said to put him outside – he’d find his way home. When I said I thought that was a bit harsh – he did have the good sense to fall for my Chienne, after all – Dad suggested walking back down to where I found him. Perhaps his family was looking for him or he’d get his bearings and head home. Pleased with that plan, I put Chienne back on her leash and we headed out, this time with the cell phone instead of the iPod. There was more inappropriate behavior, though my girl was beginning to tire of his not-so-subtle advances.

Mixed signals, I decided, walking behind them, scolding quite often. Though he had spent some time playing chase and barking at other dogs for her, he hadn’t really earned the right for excessive physical contact. She was playing a bit hard to get, or perhaps she decided she didn’t care for his shaggy tail and small stature.

“She’s not really ready for a serious relationship.” I told him. “Women do that – change their minds, waffle between wanting a man and not wanting this particular man. Then there are crushes that go too far too fast. Men who are too nice and don’t make a move quickly enough. Romance is hard.” I commiserated with this new friend, frowning when he abandoned my advice built from years of knowledge to once again try to sniff Chienne's private places.

We reached the end of the street – no traffic of any kind (or I wouldn’t have been talking to myself out loud quite so much) – and waited.

“Go home.” I suggested to him. “Chienne! Sit! Stay!" Then I returned my attention to the white dog.

"OK, look. I don’t want another dog – especially one who is so attracted to my puppy. I know she’s pretty, but she’s also a pain. Spoiled. Needy. And she snores lately – her allergies are really acting up. You don’t want to deal with that. So let’s just call this a harmless yet intense flirtation and you go home.”

No deal. He hopped around, trying to entice Chienne who was getting impatient with the sit/stay routine. So we came home. She pounced on him once en route – knocking him away when he’d finally had enough … um, attention.

“This is not cool.” I said to myself as I pulled her closer, fending him off with one hand. “It’s before 8:00 on a Sunday morning – the Lord’s day!” I told the white dog as I nudged him away with my foot. “And I’m dealing with semi-explicit canine behavior.”

We came home and Chienne pushed him out of the way – wanting in the door first. She’s at least 4 times his size, so she won. I unlocked the door and pushed her inside, picking him up when he tried to enter as well.

“You need to go home, sweetheart. I know someone loves you and they should have given you an ID tag on your pretty collar, but you need to find your way back there.” Then I hardened my heart, stepped inside, put him down and closed the door. Feeling awful, I sat on the loveseat for a moment. Would he be OK? Should I have kept him in the back yard and put up signs? Called animal control?

I went to the guest bath, took off my glasses and washed my face. I returned to the living room to angry barking at the front door.

“Fantastic,” I told Chienne, who had walked in the bathroom for safety, looking up at me with concern. “Now you have a stalker.”

He ran around the house – barking at all the windows, scratching at the door, for 30 minutes. I think he’s gone now, but every time I’ve looked in the past, he’s been scampering around, trying to find a way in. Chienne is now asleep on the couch, I desperately want some coffee that I haven’t yet made, and I’m wondering why this stuff happens to me.

I’m an awful neighbor. First the bike ownership incident, now inadvertently stealing someone’s dog and refusing it entry into my home a second time. But he has no chance with my girl now – trying a little too hard can be charming for a time, but stalking? Not sexy at all.

Once again, I'm accepting advice on the appropriate response to this situation so if it happens again (though I really hope it doesn't), I'll know what to do. Thanks .

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Me? I'm waiting.

I remember a few goals from my past. In high school, I wanted to be in the top 5 of my class of 200. I wanted to edit the school newspaper. I desperately wished for the Spanish Student of the Year award since a “friend” was convinced she deserved it more than I.

I graduated as Salutatorian, my GPA lower than a tiny girl who worked much harder than I had even considered. My speech was better. I did win the Spanish Student of the Year award, but also took home English and Science honors. National Merit Scholar – the long-shot to end all long-shots in my mind, fell into place as well. This was one of those big deals. It determined where I went to school, as the local university was out of our price range without the tuition waiver. I was voted Best Leader – not Most Likely to Succeed, which was fair as well as interesting. I was just really good at getting what I wanted, asking and nudging and making people want to do what was necessary to achieve my precious goals.

I struggled with new goals in college. Just sort of drifted through, doing well in classes, participating in a few activities, making a few really amazing friends. For a while, I really wanted Gabe. I think it was motivated by some desire to latch on to his plans. He was going to medical school, had firm plans for what came after that, was looking to get married within the next couple years. I coveted his goals – something to work toward, even if it wasn’t necessarily for me. It would save me from this existence without direction.

Gabe did, in fact, marry a year after he graduated. I believe he’s doing well now, and hope he and his wife are very happy. I’m grateful it isn’t my life – I like what I have instead.

Upon realizing that I would need to make my way through this next little section of life independently, I decided I needed a goal. What did I want from my final year of undergrad?

I decided to focus on 2 accomplishments. I felt graduating summa cum laude was in order. I also wanted to find a way to go to grad school for some sort of stipend, thereby getting a graduate degree with as little debt as possible.

Did that.

Pleased with myself, I rapidly devised a whole life plan based around 2 years of graduate work. I already mentioned that didn’t work out. I abandoned those goals pretty happily though, certain that I would come up with something else.

Except that I haven’t. What I wanted from my job search last year? A house. No more renting apartments – I wanted to own a home. I wanted a fenced back yard – a dog door offering Chienne freedom to be inside or out. I also wanted a king-sized bed. I had enjoyed sleeping on them during my interview travels – enjoyed that I could lie vertically or horizontally, never feeling my feet hang off the end. Plenty of room to flop around or create walls of pillows. That was it – a house, dog door, and big bed.

I haven’t set goals since my arrival here, and I’m so not a ‘go with the flow’ type of person. All this energy that could manipulate people into giving me what I want, a strong work ethic when properly focused that gets tempted into laziness when bored, ambition, a sweetly collegial attitude. All could enable me to reach some goal if I just knew what it was.

I don’t know where I’m going, folks. I see myself staying here for another two years, give or take 6 months. Then I’ll look for another job – what kind of job, I’m not sure.

Industry has always appealed, but more because of the money and atmosphere. I really don’t think I want to teach, but I could figure it out if I had to. I like doing research, enjoy the idea of guiding students on an individual level. Or I could do something completely different. I like what I do, but I don’t feel it is vital to my happiness. I’m actually relatively confident that I could work in an unrelated area and be quite content.

The problem is that I can talk myself out of things I want. So hurt by disappointment, I can convince everyone that I never aspired to something all that much. Eventually I believe it too. Perhaps marriage isn’t for me, I think softly. And I could be happy living alone. I’m not unhappy now – there are certainly days where I’m lonely, sad or frustrated, but my guess is that some married people could say the same. The thought of attaching myself to someone who isn’t right – I want water with chocolate, if you’ll allow my reference to an analogy – holds no appeal. So perhaps I’m not as strongly driven to marriage as I need to be.

I do see a child. That part has been pretty clear for me. The husband section of the goal has historically remained blank. I see the space for him, but can’t figure out how to fill that blank – have guarded that blank pretty carefully. But children – or at least a child – that’s clear. I’ll have one. Wait for as long as I can for a man – not 'a man' - the right man – to appear already, then decide that it’s time for me to be a mom. I’ll have that, I tell myself comfortingly. Not now, perhaps not as soon as I want, but someday.

But as for now? I feel like I’m waiting. Perhaps the grant decision will provide some professional clarity. That would be nice. I don’t know that I’m ready to get married, even if the right guy showed up and offered a stunning ring. I know I’m not ready to have a child, especially realizing the possibility that I might have the little one on my own. So I’m waiting.

And that leads to days like today. Mindless television, different routes through my neighborhood to walk the dog, no cleaning, no yard work, not even reading a book. Just waiting for something undefined. For the next goal to emerge so that I can move more confidently in some direction.

It’s not sad. This isn’t at all a “Hi. Please feel sorry for me. Thanks.” post. I’m fine, pretty content, rested, smiled over lame reality TV (Dateline right now, My Super Sweet Sixteen this afternoon, The Real Housewives of Orange County before that. I keep telling you guys I’m not all that smart! Though I don't need excuses, I will say that I don't normally watch any of these shows, but was vastly entertained by them today), curled up in the house I wanted so badly (with a doggy door in the kitchen and a king-sized bed in the master bedroom).

I just wish I was working toward something concrete – that if my life were a novel, I could flip forward and check several chapters in the future. But for now, I’m working (though likely not as hard or consistently as I could), doing some volunteer work and planning more, looking forward to some travel to see friends. I’m good – just unfocused and not sure how to work my way out of it.

Until then? I guess I’ll find out how Blood Ties ends up on Dateline, and hope that someday I can read this and think, “How lovely. You were waiting for something good.”

Friday, April 28, 2006

New Glasses!

“When’s your birthday?”

“January 18.” I paused so he could enter the numbers, but was instead confronted with a gasp of delight.

“I knew I loved you for a reason!” He grinned at me and clapped his hands once. We had met about 10 minutes before. “You’re a Capricorn!”

I giggled for a moment before asking his sign.

“I’m a Capricorn too! January 4! What’s your birth year, sweetheart?”

“1979.” I answered, still smiling until something occurred to me and my face fell. “Brent,” I asked seriously and he looked up at me in concern. “Are you younger than me?”

He looked down at the keyboard for a moment before smiling up at me again. “Just a little bit.” He showed me ‘a little bit’ with his index finger a mere inch from his thumb. “1982.”

I was debating telling him that I’m starting to have gray hair, when he started reassuring me that I was still very young. Had accomplished so much already!

“I’m not married.” I told him, still puzzling over the fact that he had 3 children delivered at a hospital we had earlier discussed – twins (boy and girl) and an older daughter – when I had been so certain he was gay. Do straight men wear pink plastic necklaces? He was just so flamboyant! And effeminate! But I adored him from the very first second, so if he was going to be straight, I was on board.

“I don’t have children. Am nowhere close to having them.” I confessed seriously, looking down at the frames lying on the table between us, pushing one away from the others because the dark purple color didn’t go with all the brown frames I liked.

“You’ll have them.” He told me. “And you’ll get married too. You’re adorable! So sweet and funny and cute! As soon as you said you liked the plastic frames better than wire, I knew you were fabulous!

"Plus, I didn't want to get married. We're much better friends since the divorce.”

So I smiled at him, knowing that my lack of sleep was making me mopey. It’s so much nicer to be cheerful, and at some point during my eye appointment and subsequent glasses-picking-out-edness, I had stopped faking it and my normal good nature had emerged. I was happy.

Brent stood behind me, tall, slender and quite handsome, and we would frown over frames as we discussed my house and his new condo. He and his boyfriend had recently moved in and were doing serious decorating.

We had narrowed it down to 4 choices, and had returned to one of the many mirrors along the side wall. I told him immediately upon meeting that I had a habit of picking the wrong frames. They looked good at the time, but then I got them home, and … eh. I just didn’t care for them.

Luckily, I had gone to LensCrafters to use my AAA discount. They have a 30 day guarantee – return or exchange.

“No. I’d feel badly if I picked something, committed to it, then returned it.” I told Brent when he first mentioned it.

“OK, look.” He said, picking up a trendy pair of Prada frames. “I’m having these made as sunglasses.”

“Sexy.” I nodded with approval.

“Exactly.” He said with a raised eyebrow and we nodded at each other for a moment before giggling together. He wrapped his arm around me. “I love these frames, honey. Love them. But if I take them home, and they don’t look right? I’m bringing them back. And if the next ones aren’t right, I’m bringing them back the next day. You don’t feel bad at all.” He ordered. “We’ll get you glasses that are perfect for your cute little self.”

I soaked up the attention, compliments and endearments like a flower in the sun. I needed to feel special. Realize that isolating myself from real-life friendships leaves me missing physical contact. I tend to touch people – sit a little too close, tuck my hand through someone’s arm, nudge affectionately. It’s been several weeks since I’ve been home; I’m friendly but professional at work – still finding my footing. I did hug a couple of the administrative staff after I brought them flowers upon submitting my grant. That was nice. But a prolonged period of pure affection? This was like an immediate entrance into a long-term friendship! No attraction - we both liked boys, after all. Just easy flirting, compliments, laughter.

We’d spent a good 90 minutes together – looking at frames, telling stories (he started being an optician after someone discovered him dancing on a bar during his bartending days. “I just love to have fun, you know?” he told me. “I don’t dance on bars, sweetheart.” I returned. “But I love that you do.”), filling out forms as we wittled down the pile of possible glasses.

Of the final 4, we each had a favorite. I liked a brown pair. He loved the purple. The shape was better, I admitted, but the color? Not for me. Struck by past failures – 3 pairs of glasses since age 16, none of which I would wear in public after choosing them - I hesitated over my decision.

“I should trust you.” I told him, agonizing as he looked over my shoulder and we both examined the frames. Brown, purple, brown, purple, brown, purple. “I want to like them, Brent! I just think the brown are better.” I chirped, resting them on my face again.

“You hate them.” I sighed, looking back at him in the mirror.

“No.” He said, drawing out the word, and wrinkling his nose. “I want to like them. I know you like them. But the other shape is so much better for you! How about if we order the purple frames in a brown color? Then I win on the shape and you win on the color?” After consulting the other 2 opticians – all agreeing the purple was a more flattering shape – I agreed, but found myself still clutching the brown frames.

Brent smiled indulgently when he saw them resting in my hands. “You should get them.” He said. “You’re more comfortable. You’ll wear them more.”

But my stomach clenched dramatically (because I’m nothing if not intense) when the purple frames were pushed aside.

“I could get them both!” I told him, knowing I now needed to bring 2 pairs of glasses home.

“You could.” He agreed. “Then if you hate one of them, you could bring them back – we could find something else.”

“I want both of them.” I said, pulling the purple frames closer so they rested closer to the brown I had placed carefully on the table.

“Should we order these in brown?” He asked because I had been so adamant about the color.

“No.” I said, protective of both now. “I think the purple is lovely now. I like it.”

“Good for you! I love the purple. It’s not obvious – but it’s adorable. Like you!”

So I have both, am thrilled with both. But guess which ones I’ve been wearing since I got home.

Yep – all purple all the time. The ones I would have been too uncomfortable with at first are now perfect. Initially scary – too trendy, too purple, too outside my comfort zone. Absolutely wonderful now – comfortable, offering crystal-clear vision, and they’re ever so adorable.

I left with Brent’s phone number – we’re getting together for lunch or drinks or a trip to the park. I made a friend! I got new glasses! Both are adorable.

Just like me.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Is everything OK?

I had such a good time at my eye appointment. Learned something (Guess who has a Mittendorf dot in her right eye? It’s me! I do!), made what could be a fabulous new friend, and got 2 (yep, 2!) pairs of glasses. I shopped while I waited and found new things I absolutely needed, then came home to find a package. Such a good day!

Arriving home, I checked email (my day was so good, I didn’t miss email. Wow) and received 2 pieces of advice for increasing my odds of sleeping tonight. Intense exercise that might exhaust me and red wine which might relax me. I nodded along – each was logical, though at this point someone could say, “Put on your prettiest dress and shoes, go in the front yard and dance around the tree counter-clockwise three times. You’ll sleep great.” I’m pretty much ready to try it.

The ‘dance around a tree’ idea, by the way, is what Uncle always says when asking if I’ve celebrated the equinox. I also nod solemnly and say, “of course.”

I’m interested in sleep generally, and I’ve heard that exercising too close to bedtime can sometimes make falling asleep more difficult. So I decided that leaving around 6:15 for a jog was most appropriate. I’d go for 30 minutes, shower, then relax. If I fell asleep at 8, fine. If it took me until 10, that’s OK too.

I put on shoes and socks, smiled at the bouncing puppy – thrilled with the idea of 2 walks in one day! – put in the earbuds for my iPod (which hurt. Do the earbuds hurt your ears? Anybody?), pulled my hair back in a loose ponytail, admired how lovely I looked in my new glasses, then headed out. It’s beautiful here – mid-60s, sunny, cool breeze. Perfection.

Which I was about to mar by jogging. I don’t jog as a rule – I’m much more a walking person. But I didn’t think walking would fit in the ‘exhaust yourself’ category, so jogging it is. It better be freaking good advice, I thought as I started to bounce down the street. I was cheered by 2 things – 1) I can see so well in my glasses! It’s absolutely amazing. 2) Since jogging isn’t part of our normal routine, Chienne was filled with joy – bouncing and looking up at me happily, reaching around to grab her leash in her little mouth so she could tug as we moved along.

So we’re jogging, right? Heading down one hill away from the lake because houses are being built that way and I’ve heard the blasting. I’m curious so I wanted to see what was up. Unusual route, unusual pace, unusual eyewear. But it’s going pretty well.

There was a boy – perhaps 12 or 13, pretty big – walking about 150 yards ahead of me. (You all realize that I have absolutely zero ability at judging distances. Had anyone been with me, I would have said 150 yards, and they would have looked at me like I was the biggest moron alive. I’m always really wrong.) (Yes, I know 100 yards is a football field. When have I ever been on a football field so that it’s a good reference?) (The point is that he was pretty far ahead but I could see him. OK?)

There was another boy – around the same age, maybe younger, but it could have been that he was smaller in stature – riding his bike. Bike Boy stopped to talk to Walking Boy in the middle of the road. They stood for a moment, then Walking grabbed the handlebars and pulled. Bike held on, but didn’t look overly concerned. Walking then picked up the front wheel and tried to dump Bike off. He was unsuccessful, and I frowned disapprovingly as I got closer. Someone could get hurt. Silly boys and your roughhousing.

Then Walking grabbed the back wheel and figured out he should tilt and wiggle the bike, making it too awkward for Bike to stay astride. Then Walking got on, leaving Bike clinging to the handlebars. Nobody had yelled or even spoken loudly – my iPod wasn’t on that loud. But now I was next to them. Taking any excuse to stop jogging, I slowed to a walk.

“Are you guys OK?” I asked, looking all old and responsible in my new glasses.

“Yes, ma’am.” Said Walking with a smile, now firmly seated on the bike next to his smaller counterpart.

“No.” Bike said softly as I looked at him, tugging sharply on the bike, which had no effect at all. “He’s taking my bike.”

“Oh.” I said, twisting my mouth. What the hell do I do now?

“Are you taking his bike? It’s not nice to steal.” (Yes, that’s what I said. I’m not good at situations like this! And I’d been jogging! I was off-balance.)

“It’s my bike.” Walking told me. “He was just riding it.”

“It’s my bike!” Bike said.

And this is when I walked away. Remember how I’m useless under pressure? I am! I had no idea what to do. So let’s go over what we know, shall we?

1. I don’t know these kids. I’ve never seen them, though they were probably part of the massive line that came through last Halloween. But I didn’t even have a feeling on who to trust – I felt Biking had more of a case, but that was just because I saw him with the bike first, thus equating possession with ownership.

2. I didn’t want to get hurt. I haven’t ever been faced with physical danger when completely alone (or at all, really. I have never been hit in my life.), and thought of how it would be pretty bad if someone tried to terrorize me as I sat, awake and alone throughout the night, in my neat little house.

3. There was no way to tell who was lying. Nobody around, no idea where either of them lived, no method to assess where to lend my support.

4. I am an adult. This indicates I had some responsibility to the injured party. If Bike needed help, was I not obligated to give it to him? Especially since he said no when I asked if things were OK? This is the sticking point – what if I should have helped, but didn’t.

5. I am an adult. This indicates I’m quite responsible for my actions and if I helped the wrong person get the bike, that would be bad.

6. How would I have gotten the bike away from Walking? He was significantly larger than me, and while the hope is that kids respect me, I don’t know that it would be the case here. Had I decided to help, I didn’t have any sort of reasonable plan.

7. There was no apparent physical danger. Bike did stop willingly to talk to Walking. I took that to mean they knew each other and if the wrong person ended up with the bike, parents of the injured party could deal with getting it back.

The good news is that the jog back up the hill went really quickly and easily as I puzzled over how I handled this situation. I’m really, really bothered that I walked away. Yet I’m not convinced it wasn’t a rather appropriate response.

So, smart, online friends of mine, what should I have done? And why are boys so mean?! Is it bad that this is still bothering me so much?

More snippets

How to insert a header image and link header to main page
I like my header. I have plans to make another one in Photoshop and put it up at some point. But putting it in the template was, for me, a bitch. Seriously.

The problem with that is that it shouldn’t have been hard! But I must have looked in the wrong place and guessed wrong (over and over and over). So I’m going to tell you how I did it. It may not be elegant, but it works. And I hope none of you have to suffer as I did.

Note that I’ve changed the width of my website (way back when) to 810 pixels. So I made my header in Photoshop to be that width as well. Then I time stamped a post back in December (to bury it in the archives) so that the picture was online and could be called by the template.

Near the top of the template, there’s the blog header definition. I have it going like this:

So then you’re all good and your picture should show up, but your title and description are going to be over it. That’s not cool. So scroll way down past all the definitions. I did something like this. The surrounding lines are given for context.

So I took out the title and description stuff and added the cool link. ScienceWoman suggested it, and it took me forever to place it right, but I finally got it! So now you can click on my header and return to the main page at any time! Yay!

I realize that this should not have taken hours. But it did and I will now share my knowledge.

I tried to post this last night, but including html in an actual post makes everything go to hell. I’m not sure why I fixated on including it, but it seemed to me that there had to be some way to share the information without messing everything up.

So I woke up this morning and thought, “Picture files! I could screen capture then put in the text. No, you couldn’t copy and paste, but it’s not like anyone would want to use my method anyway!” So this is what you get. This is all to inform you that you can (and should! It’s fun!) click on my header. Plus, when I try to do this again, perhaps it will go a bit more smoothly. Thank you for indulging me here.

Oh, and if it's not obvious, I'm not so talented at programming. So if something is ugly or doesn't function in your browser, please feel free to let me know. I will cry, then become rabidly angry, but then I'll try to fix it. I appreciate your patience during this difficult time.

I loved playing with laundry detergent when I was little. We had a big box of Cheer, and I thought of it as sand that smelled really good. It even came with a little scoop! I would always go downstairs with Mom when she did laundry so I could play in the white powder. I have since either grown out of this phase or acknowledged that the liquid detergent isn't as fun. More likely it's the former, but let's pretend I'm a grown up.

Earth Day was this past Sunday, I believe. While my environmental involvement was more to get a boy, I do try to be a bit responsible. Recycle, conserve energy when I can, buy eco-friendly products.

To that end, I highly recommend method laundry detergent. The bottle is small, the scent wonderful and the instructions are adorable. I need the high efficiency stuff for my lovely front-loading washer, so I bought this. I’m quite fond of it.

On dying alone. Exhausted and alone.
I slept better last night, but it was still of below average quality.

I am extremely sensitive to sleep loss.

Elle, one of my roommates in college, was weird about food. She would get hungry and you had about an hour to provide something to eat. Then she would rapidly get irritable – snap at anyone or anything. After about 30 minutes of this delightful behavior, she’d despair over all that was wrong in the world. At one point, I was urging her to drink her soda like a good girl as we waited at a restaurant with Rachel, who was ever so helpfully rolling her eyes. Elle put her head down on the table and gave up.

“We’re never going to eat.” She said softly, sad but resigned. “I liked eating, but it’s not going to happen again, so we should just accept it and move on.” I patted her head, pushed her hair back from her face and looked around to see if anyone had noticed her behavior. I don't enjoy being embarrassed.

Rachel huffed out a sigh – it was ridiculous - but I was sympathetic. She was sincerely upset and I felt badly for her. So I asked for dinner rolls and gently bullied her into having one when she wrinkled her nose in refusal. Then she was fine, smiling sheepishly as we ate dinner and teased her about her antics.

I feel the exact same way now! I was awake last night, refusing to get out of bed in hopes that I’d fall asleep out of boredom if nothing else, and was entertaining myself with the thought that I’d certainly die alone. Nobody to love me, sleep next to me, have children with me. At least I have a house, I tried to console myself. A job, friends, hope that I might find love.

Lack of sleep has stolen that hope. I find myself despondent, wanting someone to pat me on the head and offer me the equivalent of a dinner roll. I would refuse, of course. More dramatic that way. Expound upon the logic behind my never getting married. Sigh deeply and shake my head sadly.

I woke up this morning and sighed because I was still tired, but wandered down the hall to start coffee, backtracking to brush my teeth. I caught myself thinking, “I’m never going to sleep. I liked sleep, but it’s not going to happen again, so I should just accept it and move on.”

Then I smiled. So if I get all melodramatic, please know that I’m just sleepy. And if you have advice on how to get some rest, please feel free to pass it along.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Elegance in Bumper Sticker Form
I have a long-standing fondness for these bumper stickers. Political feelings aside, it has always struck me as classy. I was telling a friend that I liked them – in a graphic design sort of way – and he raised his eyebrows at me, then agreed that they did look nice.

“It needs a red line through it.” He then informed me, and while I tend to agree on one level, it would ruin the design – take away from the elegance. I’ve seen these designs – don’t love them. But then, pulling out of the parking lot at my southern university, I saw this. Nodded in approval over the design then laughed. Really hard. Still giggle every time I see it. That, my friends, is genius. I hope you enjoy it as much - on a political or graphic design level.

As a note, I would never put a bumper sticker on my car. My family is strongly anti-bumper sticker. But I do read them.

Watch out. I could curse you. I have $25.
We all love She Falters to Rise, correct? Of course we do. I found myself wishing I hadn’t stayed in bed last night, willing myself back to sleep after yet another round of nightmares (3 days in a row, people) and had instead watched this jellyfish show.

But then I saw this link. I won’t comment too much since I don’t particularly need to be cursed myself. But does anyone know why it’s more expensive to "Break Them Up & Return My Lover" ($59.90) rather than to separately "Break Them Up" ($24.95) then to "Return My Lover" ($24.95)? Is it just more efficient to do it all at the same time? Also good if you need to "Curse Your Enemy" ($24.95) or "Destroy Their Sexual Functions" ($59.90). That last one, by the way, is $10 more than "Destroy Their Love Life." I’m fascinated by the pricing alone.

Firefox is exquisite
I talked Charlie into downloading Firefox yesterday. I’m pretty sure it was calling him an old man who was resistant to change that did it, but it also could have been my detailed instructions. So I will share with you what I told Charlie in hopes of making your life better.

"So you're going to mentally prepare yourself, then download Firefox. It doesn't take long. And it's going to be really worth it. Promise.

"So then when you install it, it'll open up an import wizard! And ask if you'd like for it to helpfully move all your preferences over from IE! So you'll say, "that'd be great. Thanks." Then the very first time you open Firefox, our new best friend, everything will be there. Delightful.

"Now, one of my favorite parts of this is the bookmark toolbar. IE might have this too (I haven't upgraded in over a year), but I adore this feature - I never go up to the top menu and open the Bookmarks thingie. So I'd go into the top Bookmarks file (just this once!) and Manage Bookmarks. Then I would drag often-used sites (Bloglines, Gmail, my site meter) directly to that top "Toolbar Bookmarks" folder so they're always ready to click. Then I drag folders there too - Vanderbilt, UWinfo, Blogs, and Misc - so everything is organized, appears at the top of the page, and it takes fewer clicks to get to my favorite places.

"The other thing I do is tabbed browsing - so rather than opening a ton of windows that you can lose track of, you just hit Ctrl-T (I assume - it's apple-T in Mac) to get a new screen in the same window. You can set your main page to open as many of these tabs as you'd like. I have 3. So whenever I open Firefox, I see my site meter, Gmail and Bloglines. Lovely. There's also a setting in preferences that opens new sites in tabs rather than extra windows. Quite helpful when clicking links from blogs."

Summing up, I like Firefox. I think you'd like it too if you tried it. If I can help convince you (and not just by calling you old), just let me know.

“Gmail is different”
This brings me to Gmail. I have 94 invitations left and this makes me feel selfish. I adore this email program so very much – the way it files conversations, the new chat feature, the searching ability. I enjoy google overall, but the mail program is fantastic. I would be happy to invite you to use it. So if you’d like to help me feel less selfish, send an email and I’ll invite you! Then you’ll have Gmail! Won’t that be great?

Eye Appointment!
I’m going for an eye exam tomorrow since I have 4 disposable contacts left. I also plan to pick out new frames and get glasses! I’m ever so excited about this. In fact, I have a story that goes along with it. I remember telling Dryden, and due to the wonder that is Gmail, I typed in “scratched glasses interview” in the search window, and up popped my story! You really do want Gmail, guys. Trust me.

"When I interviewed, I struggled here. The night before my official interview was dinner with a bunch of important folks. Excellent restaurant, wonderful wine, really lovely people and entertaining conversation. And I had the most miserable migraine that I thought I was going to die. I'm still not sure how I got through the meal and dessert.

"I got back to the hotel, took Tylenol PM (because it was all I had with me), drug my comforter to the bathroom, turned on the shower and laid on the floor. I think I fell asleep a little, because when I woke up and opened the bathroom door, it was really dark. I didn't want to risk a return of the headache so I left the lights off, took out my contacts and stumbled to bed.

"I woke up the next morning and found that I'd torn one of the contacts the night before - closed the case on it. And I didn't have an extra one. So I was left with glasses prescribed when I was in high school, scratched beyond any realm of normal. I never wear them - I use them to get from the bathroom to bed, then back again in the morning. That's it. And I wore them for this interview.

"Things went really well though. Everyone was kind and interested and my boss found me some really good chocolate cake after lunch. Then it was time to give my talk, and I think it was the 9th interview or something ridiculous like that, so I was ready. It was memorized, so very smooth, and easy. I couldn't see the slides very well, even squinting through my old glasses, so my knowledge of the material was crucial.

"Then the questions started and they were lovely too. More like suggestions on where they could fix some problems, ideas of extending my work, things I was comfortable discussing. So it was lovely."

Then I start a blog-inappropriate rant, so we’ll skip that part. But I remember moving the glasses to the tip of my nose, hoping the upper parts of the lenses were less damaged than the centers (they weren't), and blushing whenever I met someone new because my glasses looked so icky. The point is that I will soon have glasses that I might actually wear! Then I might look all brainy and wonderful. I’m restraining myself from clapping with glee.

And, finally, an explanation
Why the lame post? I had to give a presentation today. It involved the words "endorectal," "bladder filling," "bowel motion" and included many pelvic images displayed on a 6 foot screen. It was … unpleasant and will likely be the source of yet another night of bad dreams. So you may pity me if you feel so moved.

I’m also at the place where I could tell you more about my grad school decisions – how I ended up getting a PhD accidentally, if you will. I fear I’ll reveal too much about my graduate environment though. Or I can try to reduce a 20+ year friendship to a single blog post to continue what I started weeks ago. We’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dinner, handbook, and wondering what happened

I’m feeling domestic lately. Specifically, I’m actually cooking rather than relying on cheese and crackers or take-out. This evening, I tried couscous based on a friend’s recipe (I've always made the stuff out of the box in the past), then decided to add chicken. My parents bought me a grill for an early Easter present when they visited about a month ago. I think Dad decided that buying a less expensive charcoal grill would be offset by the numerous fire extinguishers he’s also buy in the event I got carried away with the lighter fluid. So I’m the proud owner of a shiny gas grill. So far, I’d just moved it when I mowed the backyard. But tonight I grilled chicken! All by myself!

When I was trying to find my grill tools – never before used and tucked away somewhere – I came across the handbook for my graduate department. It was with a pile of cookbooks in the corner of a low cupboard. I curled up on the couch after dinner (which turned out quite well for how quickly it came together) and flipped through my handbook. Then I remembered reading the same sections - much more seriously, of course - at my parents’ house after the first visit to my graduate department.

I glanced through the sections on the prelim, dissertation and defense as I rested on my childhood bed more than 5 years ago. I remember shaking my head – plan for a Masters degree firmly in place – and wondered who in the world would subject themselves to all of that just for a PhD. It’s not for me, I decided. It just wouldn’t fit.

My eldest cousin was the first to attend college in my family, though her younger sister quickly followed. And undergrad was kind to me – I went to a moderate school, did very well with little effort, and had no idea what to do after I finished. I rapidly devised a plan that would culminate in a return to my hometown prepared make plenty of money. It just required a 2 year stay in grad school – in the department which had offered me a generous stipend in addition to this nifty handbook. Everything was straightforward – a clear and intense course schedule. Qualifying exams after the first year, another shot a semester later if you failed the first time. Excellent faculty, outstanding research, a friendly yet challenging atmosphere. I knew I’d end up there.

I just didn’t know I’d stay for so long.

I’d been taught to respect education, but not to take it overly seriously. Grandma hadn’t finished 8th grade, and remained embarrassed about her lack of formal education well into my high school years. She was probably 75 when we talked about it – how schooling was so important, not only in offering knowledge, but in demanding respect for the work you’d done. She was smart, my grandmother. She read all the time, listened to people when they talked, really understood the world. And I remember deciding that anyone who failed to notice her brilliance based upon a lack of diploma was an idiot. I’d never do that, I promised myself. Fall into the trap of equating education with intelligence or personal worth.

Since I had (and have, I guess) no intentions of becoming a professor, why get a doctorate? It seems that I’d be falling in the trap I’d already defined – validating myself through years of education instead of accomplishments other than school. After all, I thought with a smile, flipping past the pages describing the upper-level departmental requirements and to the single page that listed median starting salaries for Masters and Doctoral graduates, if I was going to show people how smart I was, wouldn’t it make more sense to do it with money rather than a title?

Well, apparently not, right? And I could tell you about it, but I’m sleepy and haven’t quite finished the presentation I have to give tomorrow afternoon. But I’m trying to look at this blog a bit like I looked at grad school sometimes. If I just do it every day – make myself give a little effort, make a bit of progress – then eventually it’ll get good again and I’ll have something to show for my little slump.

Important work

"So." I said, breaking the silence and looking up from my salad. I was too exhausted to think, putting down my fork because even choosing my next bite of lettuce, turkey and pepper seemed impossibly hard.

I looked across the table at a grad student about my age. We graduated from undergrad in 2001 - I vaguely remembered thinking, "me too" upon hearing her tell someone when she finished college. She was pretty - really curly red hair, tall and slender, wearing a lovely scarf over her long sleeved knit top. I frowned over her scarf though - was she cold? Was it just to be pretty? Then I thought that if I had such an item, I would fold it up and use it as a pillow. Try to grab some sleep curled over the lunch table.

My contribution to the conversation so far? Kristen had been talking to her colleagues about going to Bangkok to do some research. I was impressed - work in malaria is quite interesting and not something I was aware of in my field. We had just finished the "who do you know" routine whereby academics tend to assess worth by mutual acquaintances. Kristen hadn't been in the field long enough to ask the right questions, so I played with one of her older friends. It took us until Mayo to find some connection, at which point we nodded and spoke again of far-off locations.

Bangkok, I thought. Wow. That's ... somewhere in Asia. Not China. Wait. Is it in China? You have Beijing, and - I'm so tired. I'd give anything to sleep. Let's just say Bangkok is in China and rest.

But they kept talking about protocols and patient care, and while I nodded, trying to keep my eyelids from drooping, I continued to ponder what country contained Bangkok.

"What language do they speak there?" I finally asked, trying to get a hint.

I think I scowled when she informed me that there were a couple of dialects.

"Well then, mostly what do they speak?" I inquired, almost ready to admit my stupidity and ask what country we were talking about. But no - I must maintain the illusion of intelligence, I told myself. I could always look it up later.

"Well, I'm trying to learn some Thai vocabulary words." Kristen smiled as she pulled a folded slip of paper out of her pocket to show me.

Thailand! It's even the capital! This is why I need the internet at all times, I decided. To check facts that I can't be bothered to remember. I considered admitting my ignorance yet again, then decided against it in favor of drinking more coffee. It's funny how we don't ask simple questions, I thought. So eager to look impressive and informed even when I'm not, I internally chastised.

We sat across from each other again the next day at lunch. This time I finished only half of my salad before turning to a peanut butter cookie for comfort in my sleepy state.

"So." I said - same statement - different day. We weren't sure we liked each other, I don't think. We were both tired, trying to stay awake and aware through the long days. She looked up at me, blinked, and waited.

"What do you think you want to do after you graduate?" I asked, bracing myself to hear yet another person expound on how they wanted to start with a faculty position.

"I'd like to do a post-doc." She replied, glancing down at my cookie. I broke it in half and offered her the section that I hadn't been tearing pieces from.

"You don't hear people say that often." I replied, now sad I had lost half my cookie.

"I like research." She continued, meeting my gaze as I nodded in understanding. "I don't really want to deal with students or teaching or writing grants in the beginning. I'd just like to do more work - learn, meet people, travel."

"That's a really good way to look at it." I said softly. "It is a good opportunity, actually. I opted out of some animal work - just didn't like it. And I wrote a grant because I wanted to do it - not because I really need the money. Plus, there's time off and seminars rather than classes and feeling a bit more accomplished than grad students, but with not all that much more responsibility. It's kind of cool."

She leaned closer. "I might do more than one."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. Nobody wants to do more than one post-doc! Not even me!

"There's just so much to learn!" Kristen continued happily. "I mean, I do project A, but then you talk about your grant on something completely different. But then Rich Guy is excited about topic G, and I don't know anything about that. I get excited just thinking about how many places there are to go!"

I frowned. Being positive and sweet is my thing. Why was she stealing it from me when I was too tired to fight for it?! But now I was jealous of her enthusiasm so I mustered some energy.

"There is a lot to learn - more than I have time to deal with, certainly. I think you're amazing, actually. To have a couple years left in grad school after already spending 5 getting to this point. Then to be so thrilled with learning more. Wow."

Kristen shrugged and finished her section of cookie. "I like what I do. I think it helps people. I make some money, feel challenged, get to talk to some really bright people. Some days suck pretty bad, but then there are good days - you read a paper that gives you some great idea, hear a seminar you love, get to talk to someone who has written books and papers, go to a really good meeting in an exotic place."

"Get to study malaria in Bangkok?" I continued for her, smiling now, feeling more awake.

"Exactly! It's hard - crazy hot and the nurses don't speak much English and I don't speak enough Thai - but I feel like I'm accomplishing something. Doing important work."

She is. The science she's doing is impressive, to say the least. But sitting with me that day was pretty important too. Her lack of pretence, excitement over the work we do, the sparkle when she thought of opportunity - it made me feel grateful to be there, finishing my half cookie and heading back to the classroom. I think the important work sometimes comes in encouraging each other - providing some validation and a little nudge that we could enjoy our current positions a bit more while we're in them.

I have no desire to go to Thailand (since I now remember that's where Bangkok is located). I do, however, hope that I can provide someone else with the boost in mood Kristen provided for me. Because post-doctoral fellowships, despite some problems, have the potential to be pretty lovely.

*My dear Windows users - sorry for the earlier ugliness! I think I finally fixed it. But, seriously folks, you know I'll love you regardless, but have you thought about Firefox? I'm so much prettier in Firefox.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Better you than me

I had a few bad days in 1st grade. I can’t imagine what my problem was. Likely tired – I’ve always had a fondness for sleep and find it terrifically difficult to slip into dreams when I know I have to be up at a specific time in the morning. Perhaps we were doing an art project – I’ve never been skilled at drawing. Or maybe my moodiness started before age 6.

Anyway, I sat in the first desk you could see from the rear of the 2 doors on the side wall of the classroom. I could see people pass through the hallway and caught glimpses into the Kindergarten classroom as well. For whatever reason, that day I found myself cheered by watching the 5 year olds perched on their carpet squares while I sat at my desk.

“At least I’m not them.” I thought. “I’m one step closer to … something. They have to get where I am, so I’m a little ahead!” So I smiled with my newfound superiority and enjoyed the rest of my day. Soon after, I started helping in the Kindergarten class – I can’t remember why. But I learned to make stars so I could grade papers for Mrs. Park.

If you think I grew out of this, you’re wrong. I was intimately involved with recruitment in grad school, organizing not only the official visit weekends, but also individual tours for students arriving independently. I was pretty brilliant at it – highly interested in the specific interests and needs of the students, eager to help and talk and offer information, sweet enough to step in and offer that bringing a parent was likely not the best of ideas.

All the work was hardly selfless though. I noted extreme rises in productivity around these spring weekends when prospective students would arrive. I would fuss over their schedules I had carefully prepared. Study details from past emails so I could answer questions and tell the most appropriate (yet entertaining and charming) stories. Confirm meetings and tour times with professors. This all made me feel quite important and carried over into my own work. The abstracts I’d prepare and print made me note my progress! I remembered my own tour when choosing graduate departments, and look at how far I’d come since then!

Having a highly-ranked department has its perks. The students were highly talented, and, with very few exceptions, delightful to have around. I made my way around the final cocktail hour, carefully using my wealth of knowledge to guide the little prospectives to the best grouping of faculty members, easing them into conversation, then flitting away to find another lost lamb. And without fail, each of the four years, I would return home, achy and exhausted after a day of scurrying around campus, ferrying students to and fro, answering frantic calls on my cell phone. I’d shower, then I’d work – the energy of the day transforming into intense progress so that I’d have something of note to show the next batch of incoming students.

First of all, they have ruined my open house. I sadly noted the emails this March, bit my tongue and resisted my impulse to ask why the current student volunteers hadn’t met yet. Wondered who was hosting the Thursday night dinner for those who arrived early enough. Hoped they went to the appropriate bar on Saturday because it’s not an open house unless you drink beer in a very specific way afterward! So I sighed regretfully – all the work and energy and time that had gone into making exquisite visit weekends had apparently been lost upon my departure. Because I’m obviously that important. (And arrogant, apparently. Wow.)

The sad thing is that I don’t get to be all important at my new institution. The lines between departments and groups are so muddled here that I still, nearly a year later, can’t figure out the politics. I miss the boost of productivity! Want to feel a little superior (in the nicest way, of course) when the new people parade through and looked awed at all I’ve accomplished. After all, what good is my skill at impressing people by making myself seem cooler than I am if nobody is going to listen! Disappointing.

One of the departments on campus offers catered lunches for their Friday afternoon seminar series. I’m out of grad school, so free food doesn’t guarantee my presence, but I’ll admit that it helps. I found myself wanting a soda and having only 60 of the necessary 65 cents, so I trudged through the rain to sit in the seminar a couple days ago. I perked up considerably when Speaker was introduced as a post-doctoral candidate. How exciting, I thought! I remember giving my seminar last Spring! It’s like looking into the Kindergarten classroom all over again! Because I’m farther along than he is!

Restraining myself from clapping with glee, I sipped my precious soda and eagerly anticipated the beginning. I noted the size of the room – much larger than the smaller area where I’d presented. I hate using microphones too. But in a room of nearly 100 people? Probably necessary, I thought sadly.

I tended to wear blues and grays to my interviews, I noted, frowning slightly over his pink tie. I would have gone with red. Green perhaps. Even black would have looked sharp. This pink was questionable. I noted his wedding ring and wondered if his wife had approved this tie.

He didn’t look nervous, and I raised my eyebrows in appreciation. I always found someone to chatter at before I had to begin my talk. The waiting is the hardest part – once you get started, you can engage in the material and forget that all these people are looking at you (and your pink tie). But those 10 minutes while the line of humanity files in? Lured more by the food and soda than your knowledge? Ick. He was holding up well though – certainly better than I would have.

Ah, but then he started playing with PowerPoint. Starting his presentation after quickly flipping through the first few notes slides. Then, unable to leave his leading slide on the 10 foot screen, he checked the controls and showed us the first 2 slides before returning to his title. Adjusted his pink tie, walked quickly to the seminar organizer to ask for a pointer. I looked at the clock and shot a glare at the organizer myself. We were 5 minutes late already – how about we get this going? We soon did, and Speaker took a deep breath. And I sent a sincere wish for the next 40 minutes to go as well as possible for him.

He started by saying he wasn’t going to use the microphone, which I found immediately endearing. His voice sounded good – strong, confident. Mine tends to tremble just a bit for the first couple slides. He relaxed into his material quite quickly, stumbling only briefly near the beginning, and I found myself sitting back a bit, impressed. Then he pointed at something on one of his graphs and the little laser shook. Badly. And my stomach clenched for him in sympathy. I looked over to see if he’d noticed, and saw his left hand clench around his right in an attempt to steady the tiny light. The next 2 points were rough - laser bouncing around dizzily, but he leveled out after that. Did a lovely job presenting some really exquisite work.

I sent him email afterward. Complimented his talk because he deserved it. Wished him luck on his job search, because while it’s easier in my field than many others, I still think it’s a miserable process. Then I told him about a project of mine where he might contribute if he decides to join us later in the summer. I remember emails like that – random people who were excited about my work, interested in sharing some of their own, remembering their interview process with a fond smile and accompanying glad that’s over shudder. I loved getting those notes from students and post-docs – saved all of them.

And I adored sending this one. Much as I’ve delighted in answering questions and proofreading posters from my younger friends in my graduate research group as we prepare for conferences. It’s good to remember that I’m farther along that I once was. Slow progress is, after all, still progress. And, well, at least I’m not them.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

All better

It seems wrong to leave up my Hi. Please feel sorry for me. Thanks. post on top when I'm so much more cheerful today. I'm good, actually. Busy, working, curled up on my loveseat after mowing my lawn and cleaning my house.
I'm really struggling with writing here lately. It's not that I'm out of stories! I just don't know how to present them properly. But I'll get it. As soon as I finish my paper for work. Unfortunately, that's yet another story that I'm having trouble telling.

It strikes me that my problems are very minor. I like my job, and have a couple years before I’d like to look for another. I’m healthy, as are my friends and family. I have more money than I need (though not as much as I’d like). I can’t think of any item that I truly require and can’t afford. That’s not nothing.

I get to think about higher-order concepts. How I’m contributing to society – if I’d like to spend my summer doing tutoring for younger students at day camps or homeless women downtown. Where I’m planning to travel past my trip west next month. Which books I’d like to read next – I haven’t purchased a novel in 3 weeks! When I should get my hair cut again. If I’m going to get married someday. When I might want to start having children. Why I want children in the first place. Which story to put on my blog next - which I will type on my PowerBook while listening to my iPod in my air conditioned house.

The very fact that I have time and energy and resources to consider these questions with such depth and passion indicates my life is amazing.

Having said that, sadness isn’t restricted to those who deserve it. I allow myself some time to mope, but try to pull back from it as soon as possible. Writing and reading sweet comments helps me do that. So thank you for indulging me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Just skip this one.

Something sad happened. Details aren't important – I won’t even remark on whether it was personal or professional. But I’m so wrapped up in it right now that I can’t think of a good analogy (or even a mediocre lie) so I can talk around it. But what are blogs, especially of this type, for if not to be self-indulgent and mopey?

The silly factor – the thought that makes me shake my head at myself – is that I could, and perhaps did, see the end of this opportunity from the beginning. It just would have been so cool if it had worked out. I would have had the best how lucky am I? story. I guess I do have that story – I learned from the experience, met some amazing people, opened up a bit more. After all, parts of it were wonderful.

Then I watched it start to fall apart – wondered if I wasn’t working hard enough or if there were circumstances beyond my control. Certainly not, I told myself. If this is special, then I can make it better again. But I started reading and talking to people and seeing television shows, for crying out loud, that made me wonder. Question if I was headed toward something really cool or if the timing was just off for this idea to ease into reality.

I’m like that in research and life – guess and check. I have an idea and want to try it. Spend just a little time calculating risk, expense, resources, then jump in. Most of the time, someone stops me before I skip too far in the wrong direction. Rarely can I talk someone into skipping with me. But when they do? There’s all this extra energy! I get to try to talk colleagues into being excited with me, hoping for the best while barely acknowledging the worst. This is why I don’t want to teach, by the way. I’m often wrong, and don’t want to feel responsible for leading younger students astray. I’ll stick to those who should be older and wiser than I am.

Maybe I wasn’t wrong this time – it was an endeavor that strikes me still as completely worthwhile. But it didn’t work, and for now, knowing it was worth every second of time, energy and emotion doesn’t help the pain of losing it.

It wasn’t even that big of a deal, I keep telling myself. Nobody died. Lost a job. [Or a third really bad event that I can't come up with right now.] People have much bigger problems. But when I find myself using words and phrases specifically associated with this situation? Hearing songs from the ever-present iPod that remind me of a person or event? Knowing that I once invariably smiled when hearing one specific artist, and now brush back tears that shouldn’t be there? It hurts.

Understanding doesn’t offer ease right now. Remembering what parts were good, noting the decline in quality, seeing quite clearly that the end was near even hoping it wasn’t. I get it – completely respect the reasons behind the sadness. I'm not at all angry or frustrated or anything other than sad.

What does help? Distractions. Other projects at work, the thought of a weekend at home that I just can’t find time for in the next few days, talking to someone on the phone for hours tonight – laughing and thinking and being present in that moment rather than this one. I smile when I think of my phone call this evening - it offered complete rest from this sadness. Time heals wounds – even the small ones. Putting space between my heart and that which hurt it – carefully archiving the relevant emails so they're saved but out of my inbox, tucking away the notes I’d written that lingered on my desktop, taking the necessary websites off my bookmark lists so that I visit them a little less often. All important steps to moving on, yes?

The awful factor? The part that should make you roll your eyes at me for continuing to be stupid? Learning too little too slowly? I still want it to work. Will find myself planning a second chance at this neat opportunity. But do I really want to be here again at some point? Resigned to unavoidable sadness?

Perhaps I do. Maybe the important parts of life are hard to get. I’m willing to work for them, ache over the pain when they go wrong, flutter over the happiness when they go right. But for now there are excellent distractions in the form of friends – old and new, work, family, my yard that once again needs to be mowed, and faith that things will work out for me. Maybe not right this second, but eventually.

There’s something out there worth waiting for, hurting over, working toward. There just has to be. And if there isn't? Well, get ready for a post that's a whole lot more whiny, self-indulgent and sad than this one was.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On being still (or stuck - I can't decide)

I could lie and say I’m still not feeling well, but I’m basically better.

I could tell you that the male/female friendship series just won’t flow, though I am trying to write it. That’s actually true.

I’m feeling a little disconnected lately. If I use my grant as analogy, it’s like life in general is going to happen, but the direction is basically out of my control. I just have to wait for a little while, then someone will tell me if I get to move ahead with my plan or if I have to find an alternate option. Whether or not I receive funding is based on the proposal that’s written and sitting in Bethesda right now. So I should be doing the work regardless, but I’m struggling to find motivation. Why is that?

I keep trying to find a project that inspires me. Am thrilled to work with so many of these people that I eagerly attend their meetings, print out papers, happily read them… but then there’s some glitch in getting started, and I lose interest. Just sort of disengage and drift away. There are stacks of papers and neat files containing all these possibilities, and I find myself depressed because what if that's all they end up being? Lost opportunities to learn and make progress.

Which is basically what happened with this blog of which I’m so fond. I’m reading a lot – smiling over your stories, worrying over your problems, trying to comment when I can think of anything interesting to offer. But in terms of what I’m putting out there? Eh.

Another example? OK. Many of my friends – all but one of the women I went to school with, actually – are contemplating children at some point in the near future. I’m thrilled for most of them – can’t wait to hear stories and see pictures and buy gifts. I am, after all, an excellent Aunt Katie, even in an unofficial capacity. But I’m looking at all of them and just anticipating the moment where they all have beautiful children, and I, quite simply, don’t. I know I have time and that if it were all that important to me, I’d be dating like crazy and trying to get married. But I just want it to happen! Someone should just show up and pick me. Am I not delightful? Yes, I know – not so much. But still.

Then there’s the upcoming conference travel, which I do enjoy. But I’m presenting work that I did over a year ago – looking at this poster that I spent the day creating and pulling images from my thesis document, finding text I had written at the conference last summer, remembering conversations on this exact work last May. I’m stuck, I think. Looking backward and trying to see what happened – what went well, troubleshooting problems, then waiting for IRB approval, anticipating possible problems. So it’s not my fault! Once I have the appropriate permission, I’ll start to work. I will. But for now? I’m revising year old posters and manuscripts. Spending time writing and meeting and talking about research that just doesn’t seem to happen.

Waiting for something to happen – someone to make a decision perhaps – that indicates which direction I should begin to move. Because sitting still is getting old. Yet I'm not doing much to fix it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Lack of focus

I really would like to give you something to read here. Honestly. I just can't pull it together enough to be coherent for very long.

I remain sick. Today was actually worse than yesterday which I believe to be vastly unfair. I made it through some reading at home, drove to the store to buy Jello (what might be the most delicious food ever after 3 days of crackers), and tutored my 5th graders. I considered canceling, but I blew them off when I was working on the grant. It didn't seem appropriate to skip it twice, especially as we're reaching the end of the year. We're really struggling with fractions, folks. Can't add the suckers to save our lives. I don't understand how people do this every day.

I think it was a couple of weeks ago and I was heading home from working with them. One of the street lights was broken and there was a very cute policeman standing in the middle of the 2 lane road, trying to motion people through. They wouldn't obey the poor guy though. I pitied him, waving his arm wildly at the line of cars that insisted upon waiting at the light flashing red. He was trying so hard to help - to get people where they needed to go as safely as possible. But it wasn't going well.

Perhaps it's me, I thought sadly. Teaching shouldn't be this hard - someone must be able to get these kids to buckle down and work. Force their little minds to remember common denominators and turn Math into this magical subject for them. I couldn't do that either, I decided, watching poor policeman direct traffic. I'd get frustrated, annoyed - eventually just throw up my hands and say, "If you idiots aren't going to do what I tell you, why don't I just go home?!"

Then I drove by and said, "move along, little green car" to the person in front of me, forgetting my window was down. Policeman heard me and smiled, then gestured to the cars around us and rolled his eyes. I laughed and nodded in understanding. Then realized that some jobs are just hard - profound, perhaps, but really difficult.

Especially when you find yourself too sick to focus for very long. Either that or I'm just not so good at the tutoring. I am, however, getting really good at adding fractions.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What? Where? Who?

I have spent the vast majority of the last 3 days on my couch. It’s a good piece of furniture, actually. My cousin had it in her basement and I curled up there before I closed on my house last summer. When she offered me the couch, she insisted that it came with my much-used love seat and a chair that Chienne likes much more than I do. But this is the best sleeping couch I’ve ever seen. When you move the cushions, there’s plenty of room to roll over and stretch out. It’s old and soft, and the fabric is worn in certain places so my fingers have somewhere to rub as I watch television or try unsuccessfully to read.

Chienne, understanding that I’m not feeling well, continues to come over and kiss my elbow. She then waits for a sound that indicates affection (then cuddles in and accepts petting and kisses of her own) or irritation (and will sigh at me with sad eyes and find another piece of furniture for herself). She’s a good dog, and we’ve known each other long enough to accept various moods. I was pleased with her.

I felt a bit better this morning and decided to clean. I made it through the kitchen – not eating means no dishes to wash - so I worked on the floor. I then wanted to vacuum. In picking up the 14 books that failed to interest me, I noticed that dog toys were also scattered on the floor in front of the couch. I hadn’t noticed them at all before, and turned to ask Chienne if she had wanted to play. She immediately pounced on this little plush ball with a tiny face and reindeer antlers and pranced around the room as I laughed at her. We played tug and then I tossed the toy a few times while she happily scampered down the hall after it. Then I apologized.

I honestly didn’t realize that she was bringing them over! I guess she must have approached, toy at the ready, then dropped it to get my attention with her wet nose or a doggy kiss. When I failed to respond with playful excitement, the toy was left on the floor, soon to be joined by other offerings that were similarly ignored. This, unfortunately, is a trait of mine. I am largely oblivious.

A friend – one of the most genuine, lovely people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting – asked me several days ago if I had any regrets. Growing used to deep questions from her, I frowned over my inability to provide something profound. Quite honestly, I couldn't think of any large regrets. I think my past – all the mistakes and the pain and the insecurity – made me the person I am. And I like me. I went through a list of things I could have done differently, but I like to think I learned something through each decision and experience.

But then it came to me. The part of myself that I dislike and wish were different. So I wrote, “No, though. You know what I regret? Not noticing people. Hearing, years later sometimes, that someone wanted to be friends or had a little crush on me, and realizing that I'm so caught up in my own thoughts and feelings and garbage that I don't make room for other people. Some of them were really cool - Rachel, one of my best friends in undergrad, said she wanted to be friends from the first time she saw me. And it took us months to get to know each other because I assume people aren't interested and would rather not be bothered. So I leave them alone, spend time by myself (which is fine, but not all it could be), and miss out on all the wonderful aspects of being close to someone.”

I’m a good friend – perhaps too involved and interested and overwhelming. Once you’re in, I’ll think of you often – wonder how to make you laugh, make mental notes so I can ask what you think on some issue, worry over you, try to provide whatever it is that you need from me. I really do a decent job at interacting with people once they have my attention. But very few people get to that point.

How does this relate to anything right now though? I was playing with my links the other day. Last week’s influx of visitors from Inside Higher Ed had renewed my passionate interest in my site statistics, and I realized that in neglecting my spreadsheet of visitors, I had also failed to check for new links. I do enjoy seeing my little blog get links, so I went to check and realized that there were, in fact, some new ones! And on blogs that I hadn’t discovered and now enjoy very much! Delightful!

So I was adding and organizing and making sure everyone was there, and I stopped near the end of my list, then myself asked out loud, “Where’d Charlie go?” I shook my head over deleting him accidentally and put him in the appropriate place – between SFTR and Dryden. When Charlie mentioned that he appreciated the link (in an email that said it was OK to steal his art and use it for my desktop background – sweet, but I was doing it regardless), I realized he’d never been there at all! And I like Charlie – would never have excluded him knowingly, but wouldn’t have guessed he’d notice either way.

Not a big deal though, unless it’s indicative of some problem of mine. I assume I’m unique – that I alone enjoy seeing links to my work out there and notice where those links live, happen to glance through blogrolls just to see if I'm there. Except that perhaps I’m not all that different from many of you. Maybe you've checked my list and wondered where you are. That thought bothers me.

So if you want to be friends, give me a nudge. No, you don’t have to kiss my elbow, but if you comment or send email, I promise you'll get my attention. In the meantime, there are many blogs I read but don’t link. So I’m not oblivious to everyone – just letting my dislike of crowds rule my list in the sidebar. But that’s silly – especially when the crowd is made up of people I really do enjoy reading a great deal. So I’m going to show you who I like, and hope you might find someone new and interesting if you’re bored one day. When I’m looking for something different, I head to PowerProf or ScienceWoman though. They both do a much better job keeping track of blogs.

My vastly expanded list of links is now up, and I’m reminded of why I ignore people after all. It’s just so much easier! What if you don’t want to be included? What if I accidentally left someone out? What if you’re hurt that I don’t read you? Though if the last statement is true, it’s because I don’t know about you. Really. What if my old friends feel lost in the crowd? I’m a bit worried now – it’s difficult for me to acknowledge I like people!

But isn’t it better to at least offer friendship – let someone know they’re noticed and appreciated – than to tuck into myself even more and read quietly? Because I do notice some of you and think you’re amazing. Genuine, funny, sweet – brilliant. So I hope I’m welcoming you to my list now. If not, please, please, please give me a nudge.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Look at how pretty I am!

If you're reading on bloglines (or some other reader that only shows you my text), click on over for a second.
See? Isn't that worth it? And for those of you who actually visit, aren't you glad you're here?

Not so impressed? Oh. How about it I tell you I spent nearly 4 hours on my new header? Actually, the Photoshop part was fun - it was fixing the [insert adjective form of your favorite curse word] template! I knew I could do it - after all, I have significant programming experience and the templates are relatively user-friendly. But if you want evidence of my sadly lacking skills? I needed 2 different sample templates with pictures included to try (and fail and fail and fail) to get things to look right. And I still had to preview it something like 40 times.

Why put so much time in for a new header picture? I'm sick. Miserably, pathetically ill. Except it's at the comes and goes stage, so I go between writhing in pain to being pretty bored just lying around. It's hard to focus though - I keep throwing books down because I'm not entertained, and I can't seem to finish any posts I start writing. I do enjoy commenting right now, but nobody's giving me much to read! So as I sit in my cavelike home (very dark and as cold as possible with air conditioning), I needed something to do.

In times of boredom, I change my template. So there are a few new links (I have a post on this coming up though), and new colors and a new header picture! I'm quite pleased. Because, after all, who doesn't like being pretty?! Though I will take suggestions, especially since I fixed this using IE (Windows in my office) and think viewing it with Firefox (Mac on my laptop) is infinitely better. After all, if a friend wears a bad shade of eyeshadow or her hair is flipping all funny, wouldn't you tell her? Especially if she mistakenly thinks it's lovely? I thought so.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Stepping away from the PowerBook

The good news is that I have stories! The bad news is that I have little time and energy. I'd like to say something important and interesting, but I find myself sleepy.

Since I can’t summon the energy or time to continue with my previous post, I thought I’d explain my current situation. I had meetings today, which isn’t necessarily new. I have had copious meetings since arriving here. In fact, I talk to people and think and write. There’s very little work involved – taking data, troubleshooting, writing code, looking at graphs, trying to figure out that stupid outlier.

I sat in a seminar this morning, watching someone frown over low-frequency oscillations that weren’t associated with any particular population or drug state. I was violently jealous for a moment – I want unknown sources of noise! Graphs! Results that don’t make sense! I’m forgetting what I did in grad school. So I distracted myself with email in the moments before my next meeting.

I rode the elevator up to talk to my icing. Dr. Icing wrote a brilliant letter for my grant. He wrote a brief email when it was done, saying his secretary would bring it to me, and noting that it “glowed in the dark.” In catching up with life in general, I asked him about this alternate project we had briefly discussed months ago. My ride in the ancient Otis elevator – a bit scary, but with a gorgeous bronze control panel – took me to meet with his research staff.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that my preparation for said meeting included printing a couple of papers that I should have read long ago. But that’s not all! Sheepishly I’ll admit that I freshened my lip gloss, powdered my nose, checked my hair, and replaced flip flops with pretty shoes composed of 2 navy ribbons across the toes, a pretty little bow, and a 2 inch heel. I admired the way they clicked down the hall while my pretty pink toenails peeked out, then smiled at the way my hair curled. I felt quite pretty.

Then I arrived, was offered coffee by each of 4 men, and honestly? While I waited for the meeting to begin? I continued to admire my shoes. And pedicure. I began to grow concerned when we started the meeting with only 4 people, Dr. Icing having yet to arrive.

Um…where are the people like me? Who know my field better than I do? Wait! Am I supposed to answer these questions?! I don’t know! I was just thinking about my feet, for crying out loud!

People like me weren’t coming. Dr. Icing arrived to sing my praises, telling his team how thrilled he was that I was there, how much I had to offer their research as well as clinical projects. I was torn between preening and panic. They were offering me data and I was frantic to ask the right questions, trying to figure out where I wanted to start, talking about this retrospective project while taking my turn in discussing a new prospective study that would incorporate appropriate ideas from my field.

At one point, I finished speaking and raised my eyebrows at myself. I kind of know what I’m doing here. Might be able to pull this off – actually do some work rather than endlessly talk and plan and think (and email and write on my blog and read other blogs).

I’m excited. I’m remembering how much I like what I do! Yet I’m already tempted to do nothing but sleep until I get this data because it’s the beginning of the end for my boredom. These clinical projects that I keep speaking of? They’re going to all start at once. All work and planning will coalesce, and this time I so enjoy? It’s going to be lost in the midst of 70 hour work weeks and bringing reading home to stay even slightly above water. I’m anticipating the exhaustion – not sure if I’m scared or thrilled. Perhaps a bit of both.

So I’m taking the weekend off from any and all online activity. That’s right – my only mode of communication will be in person or over the phone. Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday will find my completely disconnected, and I hope it brings rest and focus so that I can return with entertaining stories for you and tremendous motivation to work. I hope. Because I don’t know how impressed other people will be with pretty shoes and lip gloss.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Billy and Beth

I have 2 small cedar memory boxes. One was Mom’s – she got it when she graduated from high school. The other is mine. I just opened Mom’s. It contains Grandpa’s old wallet, a couple of his membership pins, my baptism locket, 2 music boxes – one plays Brahms' Lullaby, the other Close to You. My first picture in the paper – I was making “apple men” in 1st grade in our attempt to discuss Johnny Appleseed. Birth certificates for 3 Cabbage Patch dolls – Molly Melissa, Gillian Dawn, and Mary Martha. Art projects I demanded from my eldest cousin. A Cheer Bear Shrinky Dink. A couple of coins. And a letter mailed from San Diego, California, on September 14, 1994.

I had two good friends when I was little. In fact, I was so young when I met both of them that I can’t remember who came first. If I had to guess though, let’s say I met Billy before Beth.

Billy lived next to my grandparents, and was my favorite playmate growing up there. Both my parents worked, so I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa until I started school. I loved it there – they took spoiling me to a new level. When I wanted company, I’d go next door to find Billy – 3 years my senior, and my very first love. He was fun – would protect me from the mean little boy on the other side of Grandma’s house, devise special games of tag, would always seek while letting me hide, taught me to climb trees, soothed when I cried over the scratches on my hands, would sigh and play in the sandbox under the lilacs when I insisted. I loved Billy a lot – until Gabe, actually. I’m nothing if not loyal.

I think I met Beth at Sunday School – I can’t really remember. She was petite and blonde, the opposite to my taller body and dark hair. She was outgoing and loud when I was quiet and shy. For whatever reason, we became best friends. I can remember attending my first day of preschool, located in the basement of the church, just down the hall from where Sunday School was held. I was nervous – hesitant to leave the safety at Grandma’s – days spent reading books, taking naps, playing with toys from my special closet and eating Kit Kats from my special drawer of treats. I can recall holding Grandma's hand and standing in the doorway, toes barely touching the brightly colored rug, looking up at her and shaking my head. Offering to try again tomorrow if I could just go home today.

When I looked down again, Beth stood in front of me. She smiled, gently took my other hand and tugged me away from Grandma. We went to a little table, but there was only 1 empty chair – the one Beth had left. The teacher offered me a seat at one of the other 3 tables, and I looked at Beth with fearful eyes. That trick still works now, by the way – somehow makes people want to take care of me – and it was effective here too. She sat down and pulled me onto her lap, and there we sat, coloring and playing games until I finally warmed up to the other children.

Still, I hated when Beth would miss a day. She was protective – stood between me and the other children when they were cruel, and was always my buddy on field trips. We took turns pushing each other on the swings, but she always had to sleep over at my house. I didn’t like being away from home overnight. She was kind, sweet and funny. I loved Beth.

We moved away before I started second grade. Billy, now in 5th grade, wasn’t as fond of me anymore. I’d still walk over and knock on his door, asking if he could come play, but more often than not, he didn’t have time. Was doing homework, spending time with other friends, or performing chores. I complained about his lack of attention once, sitting in his backyard. I saw the boards on the inside of the privacy fence – the smooth side faced my grandparents’ driveway – where he used to climb up to pop his head over the wooden and grin at me when Mom and Dad dropped me off. We were talking about why he couldn’t come over to play in my yard – with the greener grass and various toys.

“Why are you grounded?” I pouted, unused to being denied something I wanted.

“I did bad on a spelling test.” He informed me sullenly, pushing the toe of his sneaker in the ground. I frowned at the mud - there was grass at Grandma and Grandpa's.

“Did you study?” I asked, still irritated at him for failing to be allowed out of his yard.

“It was hard!” He returned. “Do you know how to spell dinosaur?!” I shrugged – I don’t know that I did, and even if I wanted to give it a shot, it seemed rude. So I agreed that it did sound hard. I don’t remember seeing him often after that. He came over once to swim after we moved – I remember the subsequent photo more than the actual event though.

Likewise, I lost touch with Beth. I moved, made friends with Mandy – another social, petite blonde – and had trouble integrating Beth. We grew apart, I guess.

Not so interesting yet, right? Just my 2 first friends. Wait though – it’s about to get better.

I was in high school when Mom ran into Billy’s dad at work. She returned home to inform me that Billy had graduated and joined the Marines. I was worried – I heard they were a bit tough on Marines. Mom, knowing me well, had asked for Billy’s address. The letter from 1994? It was his response to my carefully worded letter. I haven’t read it in years – would have called myself silly for saving it because as my first (and only, actually) physical letter from a man? It wasn’t great as far as I remembered.

But in reading it just now? I smiled and fluttered a bit. So maybe it was good to hang on to it after all. Bill, as he signed the letter, (“Love, Bill” actually. Love!) thanked me for writing, acknowledged that I’d be surprised to hear from him after not having seen each other for so long (I was surprised, actually. I’d checked the mailbox breathlessly for weeks, finally giving up.), told me that high school would be the best 4 years of my life (terrifying thought, that), informed me that boot camp “sucked,” then scrawled 2 things on the very last of the space on the sheet of white letter paper lined with blue. His phone number, and the date he’d return home. He “hoped we would get a chance to see each other when he got back.” Goodness.

I called promptly on October 10 – 2 days after his arrival. He came over for dinner the next day – a Tuesday. We sat on the couch – I sat on one side, and he sat in the middle – close to me! I wore jeans and my Golden Gophers sweatshirt. I still have it. He wore dark blue jeans and a striped button down shirt – navy and green and gold. He looked so grown up – the changes in those adolescent years almost overwhelming having not seen each other in so long. He had played football in high school – the quarterback of his small school’s team. The catcher on his baseball team – his knees still bothered him some. Convinced I had chosen properly, I knew I’d love him forever.

We sat to have dinner with my family, talked of people my parents had known before we moved to the country – 15 minutes outside of town. The evening was going along quite smoothly – he laughed and put his arm around my shoulder, hugging me affectionately when I blushed over brownies that were overdone and frosting that was inexplicably runny. Never have I made brownies from scratch again. He still had his arm around me when Mom asked if he knew Beth. I felt him tense.

He clarified her last name, then shrugged. Said he sort of knew her – it was a small school. Dropped his arm from my shoulder and asked if I ever spoke to her. I shook my head.

“Good. You shouldn’t. She’s not the type of person you’d want to know anymore.”

He left after about an hour, and I immediately looked up Beth’s phone number to call her. Of course.

I told her Billy had come over for dinner – that I had known him growing up and had been excited to see him. He mentioned that they’d met in high school, and it made me think of her, I said innocently.

“Yes, we knew each other.” She said. Apparently Beth had a serious boyfriend the year before, but liked Billy a lot. They flirted, and she happened to mention that she was babysitting one night. He called her and asked if he could come over. He did, and “stuff happened.” She elaborated, but with 12 years of aging between now and then, I’ll spare you. Although, there was marshmallow creme. Enough said.

Billy wouldn’t talk to her at school afterward and she was crushed. She had, after all, cheated on her boyfriend to be with him that night. As with many of these events, someone found out, and gossip spread rapidly. Billy, Beth and Beth’s boyfriend ended up in the office after a painful confrontation, and Billy denied everything. Her boyfriend broke up with her, was ridiculed by friends, and she was miserable each time she passed Billy in the hall.

“That’s terrible!” I said, sympathetic. “People can be so mean.” Our friendship renewed, we agreed to talk again. I believed her – why would she lie? Embellished, perhaps, but fabricated the whole story? It didn’t make sense.

I remember lying in bed that night. I thought about it, and decided that if she was being honest – and if we were going to be friends – I probably shouldn’t see Billy again. But I loved him. He was brave and sweet and I’d had a crush for years! So I decided I didn’t believe Beth after all – perhaps Billy knew she’d lie and wanted to spare me from that.

I saw Billy twice more before he left again. I didn't speak to Beth until late in college - she had married a man in the Navy and had 2 children by the time I was a junior in undergrad. I still have Billy's letter – nearly 12 years old now. I have no idea what Beth looked like past age 7.

I’m telling the story for a couple of reasons. The first is that I find it interesting – that my first 2 friends happened to mean something to each other. The second is to bring up a part of myself I don’t like. Sometimes I might like men more than women. Side with them a little easier. Try harder to see the good.

Don’t hate me yet though! There are many more stories, and I really am a good person. Honestly. But I was talking with a friend the other day (a female friend, actually) and this topic came up. Since I’ve been thinking of it lately anyway, I decided to write it out and see what happened. Unfortunately, this is likely the type of series I should finish in advance. Make sure it reads right. Be more careful. Instead, I’m going to wing it. Stupid? Of course. But perhaps it will be interesting.