Saturday, August 30, 2008


I delight in people who - by some action or phrase - make me blink in surprise that someone was brave enough to say something that's true and important, but perhaps a bit uncomfortable. Given that I may be a bit too free in what I write and say, it seems I'd start being a bit more sensible about this habit.

The saving grace is that when I've become most vulnerable and honest, I've received the most lovely responses. People seem to stop and read more carefully. They write comments and emails that are both comforting and informative and often reveal some rarely-divulged experiences of their own. So I think the posts that are a bit hard to write are often the most rewarding. Given that I've been rather superficial and boring of late as I buy and sell houses, settle in to a busy schedule in industry and sleep, I have noticed a few posts of late that I thought were surprising and important.

Friend wrote the first, discussing academic suicides. It seems to me like Former Institution has seen more than its share of loss. Said opinion breaks my heart since I liked and respected many people there. I don't know what to comment in response to her thoughts, but I did think they were well written and worth considering.

ScienceWoman provided the second in an honest explanation of personal circumstances. I've always been impressed with her, and, having written some soul-baring posts myself, I know it's hard. I also think it's rewarding and love that she opened a door to a space where people can share similar struggles.

Lastly - good things come in threes, yes? - Gaussian Noises is an all too infrequently updated blog. This is evidenced by a post I hadn't written but I've considered discussing the temptation of cheating. I often thought it would be so nice to just nudge numbers and call it done. But I would sigh and decide it was too important - I respected my collaborators and wanted to publish something useful and simply didn't want to succeed in that particular way. But I thought

Friday, August 29, 2008

You see, I've been to the desert.

A group of us, all having flown in from the Midwest and recently cool weather, made sounds of pure pleasure upon walking into air conditioned buildings. The contrast was rather exquisite - the chill of the interior air against the unrelenting heat outdoors.

"I'm sorry," I said to our guests at dinner with a gentle smile, "but when the temperature is over 105, I don't think this 'dry' you throw in front of 'heat' matters much. It's just very, very hot." They defended their choice of home and I nodded politely, and dearly hoped it would cool by the time we emerged from the restaurant several hours - and thousand dollars - later.

"From inside the car?" I said later, "I think it's gorgeous." And, again, I'll point to my enjoyment of contrasts. The lush green that surrounds my current home was lost in the stark landscape - mountains and valleys, rocks and gravel and sand. I sent a shocked look toward Adam when he said it would be fun to hike around the area. "One hundred five degrees," I said slowly, shaking my head.

"I'd probably dry out like a raisin," he agreed after thinking for a moment, soon distracted by the huge car that cut us off near the intersection that held our turn.

As my second business trip with Very Important Collaborators, I think it was a good one. I made some minor missteps, but befriended a good number of people and at least held my own with the rest. I giggled over wine and seafood, chatted technical details at a hospital cafeteria, and watched my filmy skirt flutter around my knees as I trudged through the oppressive heat from building to building.

"Do you think," I asked Adam as I examined the landscape one last time on my way back to the airport, "only the old cacti get to have arms?" He blinked at me before squinting out the window himself then shrugged. I mused that one might have to grow up - extend energy to reach toward the unrelentingly sunny skies - before growing appendages.

Perhaps I should try harder to grow up, wincing as I recalled I left meetings to take a conference call that was probably far less important. I'm still pushing outward - trying to make everyone like and respect me - rather than pushing upward and making sure the right people think I'm doing quite well.

It's sometimes hard, but I keep returning to lessons from the academic portion of my life. I'm making lists and checking email less often. I'm working from home when it helps me to focus and I'm taking time to sleep and spend hours with my parents as they visit. I'm nearing the end of unpacking, aided by the plethora of storage space in this house that's too large for me. Growing up, one might say (if one were being a bit overly fanciful, I suppose). And eventually I'll work on my arms.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vantage Point

"Thoughts?" I asked Adam at the end of our biweekly meeting today. I love working for him - he's involved and busy, yet makes time to sit and talk to each of us individually - provide feedback, offer insight and talk through issues and problems. He's fantastic and funny and pushes me to try harder and do more. Those of you who've read me for a while may recall I had a bit of a crush on him while I was interviewing. I'm over that, but I still find him charming and funny - I'm glad I decided to work for him.

"Focus. Prioritize. Don't get caught up in the trivial tasks," he said and I nodded. I've shared that I struggle to get work done - I could answer email, take phone calls and attend meetings for 10 hours every day. Unfortunately, few of those things truly fit my job description - I'm just happy to help and interested in learning so I go and work and figure things out. But those critical tasks suffer and I frown over being too tired at night to deal with them.

"I'm going to work on my paper," I told Dad this evening and walked upstairs to my bedroom to revise text and write responses to reviewers and check figure quality. I got through it by sheer force of will. I just struggle to care and engage in the work anymore. With distance, it seems somehow harder than it should have been. More stressful and subjective and less worthy of my sleepy attention.

"I wondered," I told Carrie tonight, "if I'd slip back into sparse attendance mode when I moved into my pretty new house. But I didn't - I get up and get ready and go to work because that's where I belong. I do my job and leave at the end of the day and though I feel like it's all I do, I still enjoy my job."

"Crap," I thought an hour ago, eager for sleep and needing to pack a bag for an overnight trip I'm taking tomorrow. "I need to write a blog post." And I love to write blog posts! It makes me feel like the day is complete once I document some errant thought or little story. But my energy is maxed out - work and moving in and yelling at the relocation company who dropped the sale of my house and left Realtor to fix everything himself and are still demanding money from him. I had to get angry with them and it exhausted me. And I'm good at being stern and disapproving!

I nodded at Adam's advice and sighed. "I just don't see things clearly yet," I told him. I'm stuck in the middle of this transition and I can't tell how to allocate time or structure my priorities.

"You're getting it," he said, glancing at me before turning his attention to his email. "Just stay focused."

In the event that sleep will make that easier, I'm going to bed to listen to the crickets and bask in the cool air coming through the screen door at the foot of my bed. And I very much hope you're all well and that I soon return to better stories and more thoughtful posts. Until then, I remain sleepily yours.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tour of Home

"I don't know why," Dad said, staring down the stairs and across the sofa we'd wedged in the staircase, "the movers said this wouldn't fit." I laughed, wiped sweat off my face and shifted the weight of the piece of furniture to try to force it around the corner at the bottom of the stairs.

"It won't go," the movers told me with a shrug. I sighed heavily and said that the couch and loveseat were supposed to in the basement. They were big and ugly and worn out and they didn't belong in the pretty living room on the main floor! It wasn't what I pictured! Or what I wanted! When they didn't look like they were going to abide by my wishes, I sighed again and said my dad would get them down there for me.

Dad and Chienne arrived and wandered around on Friday. We spent the first evening unpacking and resting on the furniture in my living room. "Boy," I said once, "it sure would be nice if this was downstairs." I frowned when he didn't react and waited for my next opportunity. "You know," I tried later, "the digital cable box is downstairs. I had the cable guys set it up then because I wanted this furniture down there. If we got it down there, you could watch Speed Channel. Oooh, Speed Channel..." That got him to measure and I could see him begin to think and calculate. I decided Saturday morning would find my stripey furniture heading down the stairs and went to bed happily.

"This furniture is too big for this room," Dad noted yesterday morning. So we ripped off parts of the upholstery and took off the arms. The loveseat went down fairly easy sans arms and, once located down a floor, we bolted the arms back on, slipcovered it and called it good. I gave some hints about the couch, offered that it was fine to leave it if he didn't think it wouldn't it, and grinned when he began taking it apart as well. It turned out the extra length of the couch was problematic - it was wedged in the stairs for about an hour. We took turns with the hammer and utility knife and screwdriver and finally tore the back from the bottom. Once dissembled, we finally shoved it around the corner, glanced the gouge in the wall and put the thing back together.

"I'm happy," I said, lying on the couch with Chienne while Dad took the loveseat. He nodded, most of his attention on the Speed Channel, and I nodded with satisfaction. I put my DVDs in the built in case, TV perched atop it. I finally put towels in the full bath located between the finished part of the basement - now filled with big, old furniture - and the laundry and storage section.

There are no words, I thought on Friday night as I relaxed in the bathtub. The water was hot, the jets bubbled strongly and I shook my head in disbelief. Normally my knees or shoulders stick out of the water. This tub is long enough for me to be completely submerged, toes reaching toward one end while my shoulders rest against the other. If I bend my knees, my head dips underwater.

I wiggled the nozzles around, making sure the jets of water hit my back where it was sore and my calves where they ached. I let my hands skim the surface of the water, bubbles scented by the bath bomb I'd used tickling my palms and fingertips. This bathroom is why I bought the house. I'm currently on my bed, the sliding door open to let in the night air off the deck, and when I glance to my right, I can see the edge of the tub peeking past the door. Just past the tub is the shower, enclosed by opaque glass. Across from the shower is the entrance to the walk-in closet. There are rods on two walls and shelves on another. Plenty of room for my things to be organized and stored. Past the shower and closet is the toilet - a door closes between the two spaces. Once shut, a linen closet is revealed and I've begun to fill shelves with products and towels and sheets.

Much as I adore the master bath - it's huge and luxurious and wonderful - I also coo over the tiny bathroom on the first floor. I've always wanted a pedestal sink! I think they're so elegant and pretty, but they're not so practical - no room for storage. But when you have 3 other bathrooms in the house, apparently a pedestal sink makes sense in the fourth bathroom! Yay!

One of the reasons I loved this house was all the little touches - the wood around the doorways, the railings on the stairs, the decks. And I keep smiling over these pieces of prettiness. I run my fingers around the curve of the sink after I wash my hands. I stop unpacking boxes to sit back and look around, admiring my surroundings. It doesn't feel quite like home yet - Chienne and I are both a bit confused about the drastic change - but we're starting to settle in.

There are still boxes everywhere, though I have made progress in unpacking. Unfortunately, this means I've made piles of stuff that needs to find a home. So it's a mess - we all climb over items and keep carrying boxes up or down stairs. My knees sometimes crackle as I head up or down too.

But I told you about how much I love the basement. I'm very comfortable down there, surrounded by familiar pieces of furniture and watching television. Upstairs, it's warmer. Thank goodness it's cooler outside and we can open the windows. Given that one wall of my bedroom contains a sliding door and two windows, I can get a lot of air to move in there. So I finally slept last night for a few hours, easing back an odd panic that this is officially my life now. It's not that I'm unhappy - I do wish I had something to put on that ledge under the window in my entryway, but I like this house and my job and my neighbors - but it's a huge transition and therefore scary for my poor brain.

But I'm here. And I'm happy. And I'll continue to post pictures as I make progress.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I write to you from the living room of my new house. Putting all my stuff in it makes it seem much smaller and I'm very, very pleased to be here. The cable people arrived and hooked up television and internet before the devices necessary to use them were off the truck. All told, they unpacked me for about 4 hours and left me with boxes. Lots and lots of boxes.

Dad is on his way - he should be here shortly with my pretty puppy.

I keep looking around and grinning because it's just so pretty. And I get to live here! Pictures and stories to follow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


"I'm moving tomorrow!" I chirped to the front desk attendant, a lovely woman who gave me directions when I first checked in, always hands me my mail when I trudge through the lobby and smiled her congratulations at news of my closing on my beautiful house tomorrow. I have packed up and loaded my car, ready (and eager!) to drive to the final walk through once I wake up and grab the last of my things. I'm growing to love this room now, once emptied of my belongings and filled with the knowledge that I get to leave it soon.

"Thank you," I told the man on the phone. He'd come to fix my attic window - source of the leak and subsequent mold fiasco - and said it wasn't properly caulked. He'd taken care of it, he told me, and now I was all set. "I left Realtor a check for you," I told him and frowned when he said he didn't want money. "But," I protested as I rode in the car with Friend, "you fixed a big problem for me and I'd like to give you something for your time and trouble." I paused again to listen, thanked him again and shrugged at Friend. "He wouldn't take money," I told her. "Southern people are beyond lovely."

For about $300 and 3 hours (round trip), I can go visit Friend or she can come here. While we did snap at each other a few times - when someone gets snippy with me, I react strongly and similarly - I did love spending time with her.

A houseful of stuff is heading north in a truck. I am neither sore nor overly exhausted, having sat and read books while the movers packed. I understand this method is rather expensive - having guys pack your possessions, loading the truck, driving the truck, unloading the truck and unpacking your stuff. But Industry is footing the bill and I rather adore the whole idea.

My paper is ready to resubmit. Boss and I hugged when we saw each other on Monday and he introduced me to my replacement as he held my hand. I leaned into his side and curled my fingers around his palm and smiled at the woman who'll sit at my desk. He and Jill talked about how wonderful I was and how proud they were of me. We later sat a table and went over revisions and he pronounced it ready for resubmission before I kissed his cheek and took my leave. I don't miss working for him, but I do love him.

My plane was a bit delayed last night. Not weather, nor schedules, nor mechanical difficulty. It was two men who stumbled upon the aircraft, laughing loudly about how they'd been paged for the flight. "Is there beer service?" one immediately asked and I frowned darkly in disapproval. They were medical students - residents, perhaps - talking about how much they hated their pediatric rotation. I hated them with a passion and hoped bad things happened to them.

The movers left me in a mostly empty house and smelling rather icky (It had been hot and I did work a little bit) on Tuesday evening. When Friend suggested I shower before she arrived to fetch me, I told her I'd packed my shower curtain and all the towels. She sighed at me. So I decided to get clean anyway. It is, just so you know, not great to get the bathroom wet as water splashed out of the tub unimpeded. It's even worse to scurry through your empty house, shielding your body with a shirt, to get paper towels from the kitchen with which to dry off. I did have clean clothes to put on, but no brush for my hair. So I'm going to proclaim showering without the necessary tools non-ideal.

I left my camera cord - from the camera I dearly love and obtained from Repressed Librarian - buried in a bag. So no pictures for another day or so.

"I'll be there the whole week," Dad assured me. I have to travel next week and Chienne's fence doesn't go in until next Friday. I'm sure we'll find problems to fix and purchases to make and it'll be nice not to be alone.

Rather Sad
That I'm nearly 30 and I need my dad to come stay with me. Because I'm all alone.

I was asked for advice today - interview tips from a graduating member of my old research group - and I referred to my blog. I find one of the things that bugs me when I don't write (as in the last few days) is that I don't have records of what I thought. And though it happens rarely, sometimes I go back and take sections out when I want them again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back! Tired.

I gulped back tears when Friend left me at the airport. I clung for a moment before grabbing my bags from the car and blinked rapidly and approximated some awkward wave before entering the terminal and taking deep breaths before getting my ticket. I proceeded quickly through security and sat at the gate, writing blog posts in my head. It turns out I left my camera cord in my bag that I left in the car, so I think it'll wait until tomorrow.

I'm sad - I miss Friend and the cats. It was nice curling up with purring animals while I slept. I liked having someone to talk to when Friend and I drove around and completed errands. But all my stuff left in a truck on Tuesday night. So I flew north so I could meet it on Friday morning. In the meantime, I'll find energy to tell you about my trip.

Thank you for the comments - pictures and stories to follow soon, I promise.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sans Internet

I have thoughts and will take pictures, but I think I'll be without any ability to post them for the next couple days. So - as I enter the moving process - think of me fondly (if at all) until I return.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

No Place Like Home

"Hey," I said when Friend wandered out to her living room this morning. "I slept really well," I continued, curled into the corner of the sofa. I'd folded the quilt and top sheet and tucked the bed away. I heard her rustle around at 8:00 and I hadn't unsnuggled myself from my sleepy nest much earlier. So the compromise - I slept late and she woke early - worked out quite well.

"When are we going?" she asked around nine. We were still sipping coffee and petting cats and I shrugged and said I could soon be ready. I sighed as I dressed, acknowledging the difficulty of being back. I miss it - the familiar comfort. I got distracted as we ran a couple of errands and made our way to the farmers' market.
"It smells amazing," I said, breathing deeply and smiling as I saw peaches nestled in baskets, smelling of summer in the warm morning air.

"They're actually yellow," Friend breathed, drawn toward the tomatoes. She started listing produce she wanted as we wandered the main aisle. I followed her, smiling at the southerners and looking with approval at the bright colors and bountiful food. She peered expertly at cucumbers, examined the lamb cuts available, and glanced over at me, finding me predictably entranced by baked goods. I continued to follow as we ventured in the stands, placing ripe items in bags and paying cash for our selections.

"I don't like peaches," Friend said, looking at the fuzzy fruit that scented the air. "But they look really good."

"I like peaches," I offered so she put a couple in a bag. I said the same for carrot cake. Sourdough bread. Strawberries. We loaded the car twice, burdened with fresh fruits and vegetables.

"Hi!" We greeted her roommate on a quick run for groceries. "We decided," Friend said, "to have tomato salad with vinegar and blue cheese. Garlic green beans. Corn on the cob. Fruit salad with peaches, nectarines, mango, watermelon and strawberries. We also have fresh sourdough bread and carrot cake." Having forgotten about the garlic and beans, I fantasized about them for a moment before Friend's Roommate went to go get steak and chicken.

"I'm pruney," I announced once we returned to Friend's kitchen. "These tomatoes are really juicy. You have to do the rest." I frankly find Friend's preference to peel the tomato before slicing it to be strange. I don't see what's wrong with the skin, honestly.

I frowned once I returned a bit later. I had done some revisions on my paper while I watched the Olympics and came back when she asked if I wanted to slice some fruit. I met the best nectarine ever, sneaking bites as I sliced and put the perfect fruit into a small tupperware. I frowned when, after I finished slicing the peaches into a different container, Friend came and plucked out the slices of strawberry and placed them in a third container.

"What is wrong with you?" I asked, shaking my head as I continued to slice berries into quarters. "It's a fruit salad! Why are you separating everything?" She explained, using some nonsense about flexibility in what was included in the salad. I rolled my eyes, proclaiming I'd write about her on my blog.

"You're odd," I decided finally, finishing the berries and wrinkling my nose over the watermelon she started to slice. I don't like watermelon - never have.

"You're one to talk," she replied and I shrugged before smiling and returning to the living room. I brought a heavy PC instead of my cute Mac. I'm working on corporate emails and borrowing one of her laptops for bloggy uses - far different from my focus on reading and writing and answering emails from gmail. It's an odd transition - feeling like I belong back here even as I acknowledge I don't. I have been a bit sad at times, and I worry that I'll be more so by Wednesday, but it's good to be back. And I still have dinner to anticipate.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mayday. Mayday!

"Well, look at you," I beamed at my plant this morning. I peered at the purple bud and noticed it had several companions on the same stalk. The violet is soon going to flower. It's accepted its new home and decided to become all lovely.

I, on the other hand, feel quite wilted.

When asked what I thought at a meeting today, I slowly pulled my gaze away from the slide projected on a large screen and blinked at Adam. "I'm disappointed," I wanted to say. "I'm overwhelmed and have too much work and have stopped feeling like I'm doing a good job. I want to work on my paper revisions - for the comments were encouraging and good - but I don't have time. I'm afraid to head south because I think I'm doing to realize what I left and sob all the way back here. I'm also nervous about missing too much work and a little resentful that calls and meetings must intrude on my time away. I feel like I work all the time and never accomplish enough. I'm disappointed and while I hope it will ease - I think it will, actually - I'm struggling a good deal."

I glanced around the room, for the group had turned its collective attention upon me and I shrugged. "I think we're lagging," I said honestly. "But this is a start."

To be fair, I had a lovely meeting with my closest colleague that morning - I love her and think she's terribly smart and talented and lovely. We had lunch with a woman I initially found overbearing and intense - we seem to have found a balance that allows us to work comfortably together. Much as I indulge my melodramatic side, I do relish stability and comfort. It hurts my heart when someone glares at me in the hallway, so I tried to make amends with Warring Woman. I just disagree with 90% of the stuff she says, so it's hard. If someone is kind, I try mightily to be polite. But when someone blows off my opinion, I narrow my eyes and counter-attack. You have a doctorate and learned how to make people feel small through years and years of education? Me too. So far, I estimate we're tied. In the end, I've no plans to lose.

I like the people - most of the people, I comforted myself on the way home this evening. I walked out with two women from my group and was told not to work tonight. We laughed together and they offered advice and I felt accepted and ordered myself to be happy. I called Realtor and was told the ordered mold inspection might cost upwards of $2K. So I called my relocation consultant - she ordered said inspection - and ranted at her answering machine. I believe I used the word 'asinine' pretty liberally. But I set my limits on what I was willing to do to accommodate their rules and what they could do (and perhaps where they could go - I can't recall) if my boundaries weren't acceptable. I snapped my phone closed, sent a few work emails and curled up - all alone in my depressing hotel room - to cry a bit.

I continued to sniffle on my way to the shower, scowled at the drain which isn't working properly and glared at the wall because I can smell smoke again. One more week, I thought grimly, then paused as I rinsed the shampoo suds from my hair. Tonight, I calculated, remembering my trip where I'll sleep on Friend's pull out couch with (or without, should they decide I'm a stranger and untrustworthy) pretty cats. Then I'm here next Wednesday and Thursday.

Perhaps it's not as bad as it seems. (Or maybe it's worse - who the hell knows at this point?)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


“Hello?” I said, rolling over in bed to answer the phone. It was 7 and I had decided to have a bit of a late morning since I’d been up late answering email last night.

“OK,” I said, waking up and responding to the relocation consultant’s suggestion that I not have a mold inspection if the buyers didn’t want one. It would open up new costs and it was best to leave it alone if they didn’t request a more thorough inspection. “Wait,” I said as I grew increasingly conscious. “I’m not comfortable with that – I’m not selling a moldy house without fixing it, so the specialist will be in this morning.”

“I know – that’s fine,” I replied once more when informed they wouldn’t cover the costs. I thanked her for her advice and hung up.

“Hi, Realtor,” I offered an hour later, sitting in my hotel room answering more email from home. “What’s up?” I waited while he spoke, grinning when he indicated it was mildew, not mold. He guessed they were in the same family and there were lots of scientific terms he didn’t understand, but he’d send a ‘no mold!’ letter this afternoon.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’ll get a check to your specialist – he saved me thousands of dollars.” I frowned when Realtor said he didn’t want money. I wanted to give him something, but Realtor said he’d throw referrals his way when people needed water damage repaired.

I made it to work – replying to emails, taking meetings and getting several tasks completed. I waved when a woman stopped by my office, motioned to the phone in my hand and shrugged apologetically. She returned in 10 minutes and I mouthed an apology and said I’d come find her before she nodded and closed my door behind her. I continued to jot down notes and paged through documents as the conference call went on and on and on.

I wrinkled my nose when a new email appeared. I’d been steadily responding to new messages, giving the call the amount of attention it needed. I’m locked in a small battle of wills with one of my colleagues and her endless business questions bore and irritate me. It’s a complicated situation – of which I’ve already said too much – but I’m coped by distracting myself with email.

The new message was from Best Journal. I’d submitted to them thrice before, each time failing to receive high enough reviews to make it past the first round. Given that my two other papers have been summarily rejected, I didn’t expect this one to do better. And so, I thought lightly, die my dreams of getting in Best Journal. Then I glanced at the first line and blinked. Instead of the typical regret, the editor was expressing pleasure. This editor never writes to me with pleasure, so I leaned closer and ignored the voices on the phone, reading more carefully that my paper got in. They want revisions and I didn’t even glance at the requests, but my paper got in!

“I got a paper in Best Journal,” I told a visiting R&D guy who arrived for a meeting after the call finally ended. I’d just met him, but – as is typically the case for me in Industry – I liked him a great deal. He raised his hand and I grinned before slapping it with mine, giggling with a sense of euphoria that I’d actually written something that made it past some of the tougher reviewers in my field. “I’ve always wanted to get published there, and I did it!” He grinned at me and I smiled back eagerly before adding, “When it doesn’t really matter anymore.”

I quickly changed the subject, asking about various items that demand our common interest. I made notes and added lines to spreadsheets, then I quietly packed up some papers I wanted to read at home and left.

I blinked back tears on the way to the car. I’d been so pleased that I had nary a regret about leaving academia. It never appreciated me, I thought. Treated me badly and made me feel worthless. But this is like getting a perfect letter from an ex-boyfriend. One where he says how pretty and wonderful and smart I am. And, really, it’s just a random thought – it doesn’t mean much – but it rekindles enough old feelings that I’m desperate to return to the familiar comfort of the relationship. And so, given this acceptance, I miss academic research. I thought longingly of my co-authors and ways to expand the project. I realized I’m going home next week – will see Friend and the house I loved and all my precious stuff that I’ve so missed.

And I’m afraid things are going to get rocky. I’m worried that I’m going to start second guessing and wondering if I made the wrong call. I don’t want to feel trapped, but after I move, there isn’t really any more ‘work until I get my new house!’ Rather it’s just ‘work.’ Day after day, week after week. And though I do like my job, how much of that is the challenge of learning? Once established, what if I’m bored? What if I can’t survive the northern winter? What if I get lost in my big house? What if I would have been happier doing academic research?

I’m trying to remind myself of the mold. Much worry over nothing – if I’d just waited for the right information rather than fretting so much, I’d have saved myself considerable emotional distress. But, I’m me. So now I’ll just worry over the job choice instead of water damage.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Elaboration on a Theme

"Are you sure it's mold?" I asked my southern realtor, heartbroken over the thought that there was a major problem with my lovely house I've just sold. I sighed when he said it looked like mold. "OK," I instructed briskly, "call a mold specialist and get him in there. I need to know if it's actual mold or a water stain or some other issue. If it's mold, the relocation people are out of the deal which is bad for me. But I want to get this fixed as soon as possible regardless. So find out what's what, OK?" He called this evening to let me know he's meeting the mold guy in the morning to discuss the issue. While the buyers are very unconcerned, I'm worried. But I need more information before defining my next action.

So, I decided as I sat at lunch with friends from work and looked out over a lake and the gorgeous clouds that floated overhead, deserved my last post. It has been a defining factor in my life - this tendency to now show up - and conquering it hasn't been particularly easy, but I am somehow pulling it off. And since today was shorter than yesterday's 12 hours and I actually accomplished a few important tasks, I wanted to spend some time thinking and writing. I'm getting less shy about photos - I caught the hot air balloon last night in front of the person who did my fence estimate (I finally decided on one and am pleased with the price.) and took this photo in front of my lunch companions. But the pictures replace the thought in many cases. I'm tired and I'm busy, yet I miss the luxury of free time to ponder and write and read. Glancing through bloglines while half-asleep is hardly the same as the attention I used to offer. But I'm hoping that once I continue the transition, I'll find more time.

I remember the first day I stayed home from school. I was utterly delighted with the idea - I got to sleep and watch TV and spend time alone! Then when I went back, I had twice the work to do in one day and it kept me happily busy and a little challenged! What more could a young Katie want?! So I stayed home as often as I could convince my parents I was sick, treating those times much like snow days - perfect hours of rest and relaxation, followed by a busier day at school.

I remember going to take a final in college and having the professor look at me threateningly. I'd attended class about four times, not seeing anything in the syllabus about required attendance. He was dreadfully boring and classes were torture. So I read the book, attended to take exams and avoided the rest of the horror as much as possible. I did it for several classes actually - if you can't teach well enough to keep my attention, I'll nap instead of coming to your lame class. Grad school was little better - it was harder, yes, and I went into panic or depression while trying to catch up after missing classes - but I was still bored and self-destructive enough to just not go. I'm not saying I was too smart for school - I wasn't. I was just smart enough to direct effort where I felt it was most effective - and that was often away from class.

The post-doc was horrendous in terms of a bad trend getting worse. And, once established, the habit became a cycle where I'd miss something, feel badly, then be embarrassed to go to the next seminar or meeting or event or what-have-you. So I ended up feeling worthless and miserable and contributed very little to what should have been a very productive time in my scientific career.

So it does seem simple to me - I started avoiding work because I could. Then I kept doing it because I couldn't figure out a way to stop.

H made a comment some time ago that I found rather profound. She noted that first impressions are vitally important. And I'd continue that argument to self-conditioning. The first weeks at this job have indicated to my brain that life is different. We (my brain and I, I guess) go to bed early. We wake at 6. We do not roll over and go back to sleep. We do not decide to read a book or watch television or pore over blogs. We get up and get ready. Then we leave and arrive at the office, staying there to work for at least 8 hours.

The problem has come in establishing evening habits. I didn't have access to email at home until recently, so bringing a laptop away from the office and spending several more hours writing email and creating documents and thinking through issues feels a bit excessive. I can do it - and have done so - but it feels forced. I spent an hour with the heavier PC before wrinkling my nose, taking a shower and returning to the pretty Mac.

So I think escaping my rut had to do with several factors.
  1. I was miserable as a post-doc. I decided that when I got my next opportunity, I would not make the same mistakes. Fear is a powerful motivator. And I was determined not to screw this up.
  2. I make enough money - I feel like I should work for what they pay me. Feeling valued (yes, from a financial standpoint) appeals to me.
  3. I like my colleagues. While I loved some of my postdoctoral institution's faculty and students, we rarely had lunch together or worked on the same projects. It's different now - I hate to skip meetings with someone who can later take me to lunch. I want to talk to the woman whose son will watch Chienne when I travel. I want them to like and respect me and that means they can find me every day.
  4. I can't. There's too much work for me to leave it undone. My calendar for next week - the days I was to spend moving and relaxing - is filling with phone calls. It's not that I'm all that important - more an issue of under-staffing, actually - but the effect is that I feel useful and busy. So I try to do well.
And that means showing up. So while I'm more impressed than anyone that it's gone so well thus far, I am glad it finally happened. And now - in all likelihood - we return to shorter posts and more pictures.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Because I Can

I've thought about this post for a long time - why did I so rarely go to work then and how can I do it now?

The answer as I see it is painfully simple. I used to stay home because I could. As for why I wanted to, well, I guess I'm lazy and a little self-destructive. I was irritated that I made so little money and was taking full advantage of the flexible schedule. I liked the idea that I could do my job well with minimal effort.

I now go to work because I have to. Not just the 'show up or get fired' rationale, but the fact that I'm busy when I'm at the office. I have meetings and phone calls, projects and people who rely on my presence. I feel important and liked and enjoy that people expect I'll show up when I say I'll do so.

There are days when I don't want to do it. I make my usual list of excuses and then I think of the tasks for the day. Meetings I'll miss and how I can't really catch up. Phone calls I'd have to make to let people know I'd be absent. Phone calls I'd have to accept as people called with questions or for input. It seems easier to just show up and do my job.

And the lovely thing is - after arriving at 7AM and leaving close to 7PM - I get to feel really good about myself and my contributions. I don't know how I would have made the switch in my old environment - I wish I had better advice for how to turn things around if you feel lost and unmotivated and desperate to just stay home during the day. But I do know I feel better having broken the habit. And I'll keep thinking of ways to do so without picking up and moving north.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

At home: playing pretend

“I’m Shark Boy!” Dad proclaimed, proudly showing his teeth and making chomping motions.

“I’m Lava Girl!” Little One yelled, bouncing in the middle of the room with excessive energy. “Run, Shark Boy! We have to go help!”

“Who are we helping?” Dad asked curiously, turning to make faces at Smallest One who was busily crawling toward him.

“The world!” was the impassioned reply before Little One ran down the hall, her footsteps sounding more like a stampeding elephant than a busy superhero, but who am I to quibble?

“Come on, Aunt Katie!” she cried, returning to the living room to frown at her grandfather. He’d not followed her as instructed.

“I’m afraid of lava,” I offered and yawned, patting Chienne on the floor at my side. Hands on her hips, Little One launched into a lecture about how lava was good and light and I was not supposed to be afraid. I was Lava Girl’s helper! And I was doing it wrong!

“Oh,” I said, grinning at Mom and blinking, unimpressed at Little One’s display of offended temper. I’m better at it than she is, though she does show promise.

In truth, visits home are easier as they’re more frequent. I know what to expect and the girls are more natural around me. I did laundry. I held Smallest One and giggled with her – the baby loves to laugh. I played pretend with Little One, though I often did it wrong.

“I’m iCarly,” Mom said, blinking at me sleepily last night. I nodded in acceptance of this fact, only laughing when she told me she used to be the cowardly lion. When I told her iCarly had some sort of webcast and seemed to dance around a lot, she said she missed being a lion. “All I had to do was be scared of everything,” Mom sighed. “So much easier.”

“Do you care if I sleep with you?” Little One asked and I said that would be fine. So she took one side of the daybed and I the other. We did OK for the most part – she talks in her sleep and quietly snuffles as she breathes. I do the same – at least for the latter – and did rest for several hours.

I woke this morning to feel her feet tangled in my hair, wincing and nudging her tiny feet over to her side again. Chienne had demanded room on my side, pushing me closer to Little One and her kicking feet.

“Hey, buddy,” I sighed when Sprout leaped to the bed, finding a place protected from Little One but accessible to pets. I smoothed his coat and spoke softly to him for several minutes before cuddling in and sleeping again, pretending I was comfortable and not just exhausted.

So while it’s been mostly uneventful, it’s been a rather lovely visit home. Having said that, I'm positively giddy at the thought of going to visit Friend next weekend. She keeps her house cold! Doesn't get up at 6AM! Has alcohol and doesn't make me run around and pretend I'm her sidekick! But I imagine we'll have a very nice time regardless.

Friday, August 08, 2008

True Life

"Hello!" I said to Adam this morning as I turned the corner. He was frowning darkly at the copy machine and I raised my eyebrows in curious amusement. "Problems?"

"Damn thing won't work," he muttered, without his typical wink in my direction. I mimicked his frown and moved closer to his side, joining him in staring down at the blinking lights and flashing error messages.

"It says it wants toner," I offered after a moment, just in case he hadn't noticed the capital letters glaring their demand for more ink to him.

"Who the hell should handle this shit?" he said, visibly annoyed and I shrugged, returning my attention to the blinking lights since he was continuing to shoot menacing looks at the machine as well.

"Fantastic," a voice behind us complimented and I turned to grin at the most important man in our building. "My top technical people bested by a copy machine. Gives me confidence in our future." I giggled and finally got a wink, albeit not from Adam. He continued to swear and stalked off in the other direction toward some hapless secretary who hadn't kept the copier in tip-top shape. I shrugged, the two men heading in opposite directions from where I stood, and headed along my way.

It's a reasonably stressful time at work right now, which - interestingly enough - means that very little work is getting done. If someone shadowed me in an attempt to learn about my job, it'd be pretty boring. I arrive, unlock my office, and tuck my purse in a drawer. I fetch a cup of coffee, add powdered cream and a packet of sugar and return to my desk to peruse email and my calendar for the day. I sometimes have 30 minutes to reply to the most urgent messages before I move quickly through the halls to another office or conference room or lab. I carry a notebook and pen, and try mightily to remember to keep my cell phone in my pocket.

I sit - sometimes grabbing a bottle of water or can of soda to sip - and listen. I scribble notes so I can recall details, somehow distinguishing this meeting from the five or six others I'll have in a day. I offer opinions when asked - which is happening more frequently - and return to huge numbers of emails. Often, the light on my phone blinks insistently.

"Here you go," Bailey offered today, dropping a stack of pages on my desk.

"What can I do for you?" I asked, swiveling to face her and smiling as I glanced up. "You look adorable - love your top. So what's this?" I asked, flipping through pages and wondering if it was an agreement or proposal or chart I needed to edit or memorize or file. "Crap," I grimaced in apology as I paged through relocation paperwork. "I forgot I printed this - thanks for bringing it by."

I signed and dropped the pages with my secretary to fax. I went to answer more questions and evaluate more technology - and practice feeling rather important and busy. I had lunch with a colleague and chatted about expectations and goals and problems while we ate. I returned to fill my water bottle and did a short training session for a couple of visitors. I smiled and answered questions and fumbled my way through unfamiliar details. I expressed my opinions a bit strongly in one meeting, offending someone whose idea caused me to wrinkle my nose in displeasure. I tried to backtrack, but the damage had been done, leaving me thinking I'm not so corporate after all. And this environment is less forgiving to quirkiness than many academic ones.

"Hi," I said when Dad called my cell phone. "I'm going to bring work home tonight so I can focus on it. So I'll drive home tomorrow morning, OK?" I listened while he talked for a few minutes and rushed him off the phone when my office line trilled, seeking my attention. Eventually, I packed up my papers and laptop and notes and walked to my car. I returned to the hotel, happily greeted my pretty puppy, and sat down with my list of tasks to be completed.

After I'd made some progress, I closed that computer and opened Nick. And though I forgot to take a picture today, I did get to write a post. But - quite honestly - for someone in a technical/scientific role, I feel like I do more talking than thinking. And while it's interesting and a good way to learn, I'm looking forward to life calming down so I can do what they hired me to accomplish.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The dog, the fence and the big house

Yesterday I came home to a dog-less hotel room. Chienne had been invited to spend the day with Kim and Jim and had happily taken up residence in a room downstairs. She slept all evening once I picked her up and I, equally happily, availed myself of the new VPN access into Industry's system and worked all evening. I made slides, filled in blanks in spreadsheets and answered email from when I got home until I went to sleep.

I really like my job. I'm still figuring it out and there are challenges and frustrations and problems, but I find I'm very engaged and content while I'm working.

Today I came to find a puppy in my room and she was overjoyed to see me.

"Hello," I greeted her, leaning to accept her kisses on my chin while I cuddled her after we'd been cruelly separated for about 8 hours. "Want to go see the new house?" I asked, so we got in the car and proceeded to the big house.

"Big house?" The owner asked as he stood outside talking to me. "It sounds like you're moving to prison."

"Oh," I grinned sheepishly and shrugged. "It just seems to huge to me."

"You'll see," he replied, "once you're moved in, it won't seem large at all." I looked at the big house on a small hill and doubted his words. Then the fence guy came - about 45 minutes late - and measured and took notes on what I wanted done. Chienne and I met neighbors and chatted with the current owners until we finally proceeded home.

We picked up hamburgers on the way - Jon canceled our dinner plans (I didn't get the reason as my house's current owner was mid-monologue about helpful hints) and I decided to embrace the unexpectedly free evening. I longed for my work laptop a little bit - think of how much I could be doing! - but relaxed and turned on the television, cleaned up a little in preparation for heading south tomorrow, and began a blog post.

Chienne jerked awake and pranced to the door when there was a knock just moments ago. Kim had come to see her, saying that she'd missed her this afternoon.

"She was gone when I came to get her," she said, sitting on the floor to cuddle. Chienne happily obliged. "Is she coming back before you move? Can you send me pictures so I can show my kids? I talk about her all the time."

"You're an angel," I told her, returning her embrace before she left. "Thank you for taking such good care of her - you made the week so much better for both of us. And you'll come visit us in the new house, OK? So while Chienne won't return to the hotel, you'll definitely see her again."

Two more weeks, I thought happily. Then we move into the big house and begin the next aspect of our new life.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Retrospective, One

In the preceding month - my first in my new location - I have
  1. Started a job I love.
  2. Bought a house.
  3. Sold a house.
  4. Driven home twice.
  5. Make my first work trip.
  6. Met a man - we're seeing each other tomorrow.
  7. Been very happy.
  8. Been a little homesick.
  9. Made friends at work - people with whom I can laugh and whine and talk and eat.
  10. Learned I like carrying a camera, though I still don't use it as often as I could.
  11. Went to Target once. Once. In a month. I went almost every week before.
  12. Eaten enough at Qdoba to get a free dinner on my frequent diner card.
  13. Had a paper rejected by a journal.
  14. Felt incredibly grateful I have this opportunity in Industry and can pretty happily work every day on something I find interesting and important.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Word Problem

1. I bought a house in 2005 for $X. The housing market has not been good since then. For what should I put the house - with several improvements including a new roof, all new blinds and cosmetic changes on the market in 2008?
Answer: $X.

2. I owe a certain amount on my house, having paid nothing down and making moderate payments over the past years. How much do I owe?
Answer: $X-12K.

3. I made an offer on a new house. It's very pretty and quite large and I was utterly enamored with it the first time I saw it online. I boasts an office (library!), dining room, living room (with gas fireplace!) and eat-in kitchen downstairs. There are three bedrooms upstairs and 3.5 baths throughout the house. The basement is 3/4 finished and the garage is 2.5 car sized. There are two decks out back.
a. How much did I offer for the house?
Answer: $2X.
b. How much under the asking price was my offer?
Answer: $10K
c. How much under the appraised price was my offer?
Answer: $25K

4. A couple liked my old house. They viewed it on Sunday and returned on Monday to make an offer. My agent called yesterday night to relay that they wanted to buy it for $X-10K.
a. What should I have done?

"Let me sleep on it," I told Realtor. It turns out that he wrote the offer for this couple, so he was bound by confidentiality as to advising me. I hung up, called him useless and began to fret. I wrote to Friend, and she asked if the price covered what I owed (it did) and would help pay my parents back for part of my down payment on the new house.

"It would start," I wrote, "but wouldn't quite get there." And that's what bugs me. I didn't buy a house as an investment. I knew I wasn't going to live there long enough to make money and, in this market, was praying for something other than a gigantic loss. So the news that someone wanted it within the first 30 days - even for less than I wanted - was quite good. But I've been carefully putting money aside - and hiring plus relocation bonuses help - but I'm still going to be a bit short.

"It's not a good time to try to make money," Friend advised and I nodded before worrying myself to a sick headache over what I should counter-offer. I had been willing to drop the asking price $5K. So asking $130K seemed logical - split the difference between what I wanted to make and what they wanted to pay. But I thought of the work I'd put in - the wide wooden blinds my parents bought me as housewarming gifts, the shelves and garbage disposal Dad installed in the kitchen. The lighting Mom and I replaced in the bathrooms and money I spent on pest control and preventative maintenance. So I did exactly the opposite of what one should do - I went with emotions and asked for more.

I dropped $3K from my asking price, crossed my fingers, and told Realtor to relay my counter-offer. Then I called Dad.

"They offered $X-10K," I said and my mouth dropped open in shock when he said he'd take it. "But you said I underpriced it!" I protested. "I was sure you'd say to decline!"

"A bird in the hand," he said. "Plus, you found something new and don't want to keep making mortgage and utility payments." I ended the call to take one from Realtor, stomach clenched against the idea that I'd run off my only offer so far.

"He said he could do that," he said happily and I squealed with glee. "Really?! At $X-3K?"

"I told him it was worth much more than that and he said he and his wife talked more last night after they left and think it's a great house. So he has to talk with her a little more, but he thinks they can pay that much."

So, with much more luck than skill, I might have sold my house. And, since Industry is paying commission and fees and offering a bonus for selling it quickly, I'm doing way better than I hoped in this transaction. To say I'm relieved is an understatement.

"My priorities," I told Chienne as she lay on my bed and blinked at me sleepily, "are to pay Mom and Dad back, buy you a fence, finish paying off credit cards and then to look at cars." She yawned, much less thrilled by the plans than I was. "Then," I whispered wistfully, "we start buying shelves for a library."

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Cause of the Effect

I picked my college major because I had a crush on a hockey player.

I moved here because I was in love with a man.

I’ve been blessed in the lack of severe punishment for making big decisions in an utterly stupid manner.

Once I fall for a man – be it a silly crush or absolute devotion – I’m pretty much stuck with the feeling for a long time. I must be afflicted with whatever infects women in romance novels and movies and soap operas. I believe that people entered my life for a reason. That my college crush had some huge meaning in my life and would reappear at some point. Turns out I just had a longtime and intense fixation on a cute boy. No meaning. No happy ending. Just a random mixture of hormones and infatuation and an overactive imagination.

It sometimes takes me a long time to learn, so I did much the same thing during my post-doc. I loved someone a lot, could picture a future with him and was absolutely heartbroken when it didn’t work out. I still think of him – wonder how he is and hope that he’s happy. In all honesty, I understand what happened and nod in resigned acceptance that he doesn’t want any further contact. I’m a bit intense – whether in love or angry and heartbroken – and recovering from that into some friendly relationship is pretty tough.

So I get it. But I don’t like it. I’m sure none of you have noticed, but I rather like attention. I want people to want to know me, especially those I’ve decided to love. And the fact that he was capable of easily ignoring me pricked at my attention, like a mosquito bite that I knew I should leave alone, but I continued to pick at. Then it scarred over and each time I looked at it, I’d wonder why he didn’t want to at least exchange some emails! Or talk on the phone! So I’d try just once more. I mean, if we couldn't talk any more, could I at least be in the one to make that call?

It turned out to be a regional skill, this ability to ignore me. So I happened to want a job in the city where the former object of my affection lived. And Adam – the one who was hiring for the job – just happened to ignore most of my calls and emails.

It irritated me.

I have this feeling I’m going to end up alone. And while it makes me sad, it seems to be the way of my life so I try not to dwell on it. But professionally, I’m golden. People are impressed by how I think and act. I’m good at what I do. And, dammit, I deserved this interview! Plus, I thought mildly, I could maybe make dinner plans. Try just one last time to make contact and see if a friendship could be salvaged.

I was a pleasantly surprised when I made the trip to my current location to meet with Adam, et al. I got the interview, I preened, and carefully composed an oh-so-casual email to ask a man to dinner the night before my meetings. I sighed when I read his response, unsurprised and remarkably unscathed when he politely declined the invitation. I expected the same from the interview, honestly, and focused on my cool rental car and the blessedly chilly weather.

At least I tried, I soothed myself as I read a book and ironed my clothes while I waited for room service in my pajamas. I was in a different hotel several months ago, not all that far from here, and spent the evening relaxed and alone rather than aflutter across a table from someone I likely would have fallen for again. I was equally relaxed the next day, being charming and casual before flying home after shaking enough hands and answering the requisite questions.

I took the job because it was my only option, not because I was still chasing a boy. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have, unfortunately – it’s not outside the realm of possibilities. But, for the record, and in this particular case, I took the job because I needed one. And I thought I’d be good in this position.

As I was walking Chienne this evening, I thought of motivation behind persistent decisions and how oddly life works out sometimes. Kim is adorable and helpful, calling to report that she’d come up twice to walk with my dog and wondered if Chienne could come to her room for a bit tomorrow so they could spend more time together. I went to work despite a nagging headache and am starting to feel like I’m actually contributing rather than just taking up space.

So it worked out, I decided. The reasons behind why I continued to bug Adam may have been ridiculous, but the effect means more than the cause. And, sometimes, when I start to feel overly pleased with myself for landing in such a nice spot? I remind myself of why I pushed so hard to make Adam meet me. I grin sheepishly, thank God for keeping track of the foolish, and go on about my day.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Canine Karma

Motivated by the thought of the girls spending another night with my parents while their father went out and their mother was on vacation as well as the sounds of Chienne giving high-pitched yips of pure distress as I loaded my bag in the car, I went back in the house and grabbed her leash.

“Are you ready?” I asked and her ears perked happily at the familiar phrase. Amidst questions and warnings from my parents, I firmly stated that I was taking my dog. “I’m coming home next weekend – it’s only for a week. And I can come home at lunch and walk her. And I miss her and she’s mine and I’m taking her with me.”

We had an uneventful trip north. Chienne’s always been good at traveling and she slept in the backseat for most of the trip, venturing up front to stick her head out a window I obligingly opened when we slowed for construction zones.

“We made it,” I said to Dad after he answered his phone. “We took the bags up and came back down to wander around a little bit. She’s peeing on everything to announce her presence to the other puppies.” I listened while he said he was worried about how she’d do during the day.

“This way, girl,” I called and replied that I thought a break would be good for everyone. I’m much more affectionate with my pretty dog than either of my parents and I think she misses me. We’re very bonded – perhaps me a bit more than her, but still. I'm getting lonely and haven't been walking in the mornings and think it'll be good for her to spend a week with me. So I felt good, if slightly selfish, about my decision. My parents can focus on the girls, I can have some company for a week, and then it’s just two more weeks until I move into my house and all normalizes again!

“Almost there,” I said as we made a left on a street mere blocks from where I sleep. She began to whimper and my stomach suddenly clenched as my heart began to ache. I thought of depressing the button on the remote that still clings to my visor and watching the garage door open invitingly. Of the dog door that opened into the fenced yard. Of the beds under which Sprout could hide and on which Chienne could nap. I blinked back tears when I thought of Friend and when Chienne might see her next. I’m currently eager to make my trip south, giving me a lovely opportunity to spend some time with Friend before I supervise the loading of my belongings into a moving truck.

“We’re good,” I told Mom after she got her turn on the phone, though I remained a bit sad as I wandered around the building. We rounded a corner and I tugged the leash to move my hound to one side of the building to avoid the people sitting outside. But the woman in the parking lot continued toward her, asking quietly if she could say hello. I nodded, continuing to talk to Mom, and paused to offer Chienne’s name when she asked.

“Chienne made a friend,” I told Mom, smiling as I watched the woman sit on the pavement to cuddle. I love dog people, I thought. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, OK?” I said as I turned to greet Kim and her husband as she continued to coo at Chienne. We talked for a few moments, my dog basking in the attention and offering kisses to Kim’s chin, and Jim asked why he hadn’t seen me walking her before.

I explained that she’d been living at my parents’ house while I worked all day. But we were taking a week to spend together here in the hotel.

“So she’ll be here alone all day?” Kim asked and I shook my head.

“I’m going to try to leave work at noon every day. That’ll give me about 20 minutes to spend with her before I have to head back for the afternoon. So it’s not ideal, but we’ll make it work for this week.”

“I have a lab at home,” Kim said and I nodded. “I miss her so much when I come stay with Jim, but she doesn’t like riding in the car.”

“I missed Chienne too,” I said, cocking my head with sympathy.

“I could walk her during the day,” Kim offered hesitantly and I brightened.

“Really?” I said, thinking of work I could get done and worries I could release if someone looked in on my puppy. “You don’t mind? I could pay you!” Assured that she’d love to do it and didn’t want money, I went back to my room to fetch an extra key, a check for $50 and a business card with my numbers on it. We returned to her room, she wrote down her numbers and kissed Chienne on the head before we waved goodnight.

While I suppose I could worry a little over giving my key to a woman I just met in the parking lot of an iffy hotel, I’m really not. As Chienne and I walked up the steps and entered our room, I smiled and remembered Simon.

“Do good things and good things happen to you,” I said and kissed Chienne’s head before unclipping her leash. “And we’re obviously very good girls.”

Child psychology

“Very good!” I praised as Little One matched two cards on the screen. Playing a memory game, her tiny hand rested atop the mouse. She left clicked with her thumb, her attention on the monitor where shapes appeared when she clicked on the rectangles in a grid.

“I won,” she announced simply when all the cards were matched and a tiny cartoon appeared in the corner to congratulate her. I grinned and told her I was very impressed. And it’s true – she’s growing up and I continue to be a bit awed by this amazing little girl in our family. She’s smart and funny and very sweet.

And sensitive.

“My feelings are hurt,” she told me when I followed her down the hall. Little One has taken to ducking her head and moving away from the family when she takes offense to something.

“How come?” I asked, lying on the bed next to where she buried her face in the pillow. I smoothed her hair, a brown tangle of lovely curls, and waited for her to answer.

“My daddy doesn’t love me,” she confessed softly, lifting her head to meet my eyes. I frowned and cuddled her close, immediately disagreeing.

“No,” she persisted. “He gets real mad sometimes.”

“I know,” I said, biting back my thought that he’s kind of an idiot. “But he gets mad at me all the time and he still loves me. And sometimes I don’t like what he does, but I still love him too. Your dad will always love you very, very much. I promise.”

“Why’d he get mad at you?” she asked, rolling over to face me. I mirrored her position and propped my cheek on my hand as I shrugged.

“I used to tell him what to do,” I paused, thinking I still order him around at times. I’m overly certain I’m right sometimes and feel the need to correct my little brother. “Sometimes we’d fight,” I thought of the time I’d made his nose bleed, not without a bit of pride, “but we still love each other.”

“My dad moved out,” she told me and I blinked a few times and reached for my eldest niece. She curled into my chest and I smoothed her hair, trying to decide what to say.

“I heard that he did,” I whispered. Resting my hand on her crown, I said a prayer that she’d be comforted and secure in the love of her family, even as the sources of that love dispersed a bit.

“We’re moving in with my other grandma and grandpa,” she said and I nodded.

“Is that OK?” I asked, curious as to her response. She shrugged and said she guessed it was.

“I’m taking all my stuff. But not my dog and cat,” I nodded, thinking of how much I miss my animals. She seems to be more amenable to change than I am. But, I thought as I cuddled her, she’s been through a lot of it. Three daycares, two houses, spending time at home and various family members – differences in lifestyle don’t seem to phase her overly much.

“I love you,” I said. “We all love you – your daddy and grandma and grandpa and Aunt Katie. And Chienne and Sprout.” She lifted her head from my shoulder and giggled at me.

There are moments where she bugs me – she’s too rough with Smallest One sometimes. Not yet 1, Smallest One is the happiest baby I’ve seen. She giggles and plays and tries mightily to make everyone laugh. A delight through and through, she quickly recovers when Little One plays too rough or scares her. But the rest of us are overprotective perhaps, often deciding who should walk down the hall to soothe Little One’s hurt feelings after we correct her.

“Stop,” I said this morning as my parents discussed Brother and his poor decisions of late. “She can hear you,” I scolded, tipping my head to where Little One played in the next room.

“I miss my daddy,” she said later and we all nodded. It’s no surprise that we glare and scold when he comes to see the girls. He’s drinking rather than spending time with his daughters. He’s now apparently young and free, leaving my parents to deal with childcare while his wife is out of town. Divorce proceedings are apparently in the works and while I have little use for the two adults most of the time, I do adore and fret over their girls.

“Are you going home today?” she asked a moment ago. I glanced up from my laptop and nodded.

“I’ll be home next weekend again,” I offered and she nodded.

“What are you going to bring me?” I grinned at the question and watched her smile prettily in return. So while I’ll worry and pray, I somehow think she’ll be OK.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Silver Lining

I drove home today after work, the word having come to mean where my parents and pets live since I seem to be lacking a place of my own. I refer to where I sleep as "the hotel," not wanting to confuse that livable yet depressing place as mine in any real way. There are still large ziploc bags that hold bathroom items under the counter in the tiny room. I haven't unpacked the two boxes of pantry items Friend put together, preferring to dig through the contents occasionally rather than put all the boxes and cans in cupboards. And so I leave that place on the weekends, coming home or otherwise going away. I'll likely continue to do so until I settle in to my new house. 3 weeks and counting.

"Hey, trouble," Adam has started to greet me. I grin when he winks and don't particularly mind the moniker for now.

"I don't mean to sound ungrateful - I really do love this job," I often say. He shakes his head, unable to hide a smile, and asks what I want now. Oftentimes it's advice and he's happy to provide it. Sometimes it's office supplies and he keeps directing me to Karen. She's less than helpful, so I finally evaluated the battle, mourned my pitiful computer set up and admitted defeat. I had a docking station for my laptop and a little plastic contraption that would put the monitor at eye level. But without a keyboard to sit on the desk, I'd be typing with my hands at shoulder height all day - it didn't seem worth it.

After seeing someone snag a keyboard out of a locked supply room, I casually followed him back to a desk and watched him hang up the key. I fetched the key later that day and eagerly grasped a new keyboard from the shelves lined with precious supplies, took a mouse for good measure and headed back to my desk. I wasn't thrilled that they both had wires, but I decided to count my blessings and arranged items to my liking.

"You can cross the keyboard and mouse off the list of things I need," I told Karen later. "I found some that will work, so I'm all set!" She arrived later that day with wireless versions of both.

"But," I said before pausing to look at them. I'd asked and asked and asked, and she hadn't brought them until I decided I didn't really need them. "Thanks," I finally said simply, unhooking the peripherals I found and replacing them with the better version. And so it's been going - I didn't get invited to lunch today, but I still adore my colleagues. I sometimes get forgotten in my bigger office that's a bit out of the way, but it is a nice spot to work. I sometimes don't know the answers to questions, but I'm learning who people are and who knows what. And I am fascinating by the tasks that end up on my desk.

I realized on the drive this afternoon that today would have been the final day of my fellowship. My funding officially ran out, had we not terminated it early. I watched sunlight stream through a break in the clouds, speeding through landscape I know should be boring yet I still find lovely. I reminded myself that it's been about a month since I left and I've been incredibly happy for much of that time. I'm finding my balance and beginning to contribute. It's getting easier and I'm pleased with the decisions that got me here.

"Oh, I miss you," I said into Chienne's neck as she frantically wiggled and cuddled close. I hate being away from her - it's ridiculously painful at times. But I feel better being with her now - just hearing her breathe from the other side of the bed.

"Hey, Mr. Sprout," I said, sitting on the steps leading to his basement. He purred and let me stroke his stripey coat. He stared at me while I talked, leaning into my touch as I rubbed under his chin. "Three more weeks," I told him, for he's been here a long time now. "Then it's one more car ride and home we go. To a new home."

"Maybe it's good," RL said when I visited her last weekend, "that you had some time to focus on work before officially moving all your stuff." I nodded, thinking I was ready now, but she's likely right. The lack of a house and my belongings and my precious pets may have been a nice way to transition. But I'm ready for this part to be over, I think.