Sunday, November 30, 2008

Δ - Brindle, Snow and Energy Levels

I'll confess to a rather cynical view of one's ability to change. It's not that I don't believe in our inherent capability or even our desire to be better or happier, more faithful or less wasteful. But having spent years watching people gain the weight back, revert to bad habits and struggle against ingrained impulses, when someone mentions they have a plan in mind for a serious switch, my eyebrow quirks.

It was with joyful surprise that I praised Chienne this afternoon when she appeared at the opposite door to the bathroom. I'd gone in and closed one door as she moved toward it. Without hesitation, I heard her trot toward the stairs, move over the landing and, tags jingling and tail wagging, she came through the opposite, open door. "How smart are you?!" I cried, applauding heartily before bending to give kisses and pets. We celebrated for a moment before trying again and though I'm reasonably sure I heard her sigh as the door closed, she obediently trotted around again. I giggled and clapped and told her she was positively brilliant. So it's not that I lack belief in or appreciation for a creature's ability to learn and understand a novel concept. But given an open door nearest to her, Chienne is coming through it. It's only when that opening is closed and options are lacking that she'll go the long way, despite knowing how ridiculously happy it makes me.

I think of us a bit like electrons orbiting our given nucleus. We're very busy, of course, and quite good at our jobs. (Well, you all are obviously awesome. So let's say I'm OK and you cover for me sometimes.) Given appropriate motivation, I'll hop up an energy level and feel all special for doing so. Perhaps I will preen in my longer trip around the nucleus. I might look back at my former cohort and snort with disdain. But, sooner or later, I'm getting tired. And if the system isn't continually perturbed - if something isn't putting more and more energy into keeping me up there - I'm falling back down, settling into my natural spot with a sigh of relief (and an emission of radiation!). And if the other electrons look at me with smug satisfaction? Well, screw them, I'll think, waving my electron arms and kicking my electron feet with futile irritation. "You would have fallen back too," I'd mutter with a glare. "It's hard to stay up there! And those electrons in the outer shells? I think they'd come down here if we weren't taking all the good spots." Laziness justified and disappointment in myself hidden, I'd orbit as I always had, for that's what I know how to do.

There are obvious changes - I found time to snap pictures early in a snow storm and again after a few hours. It's lovely - the glistening, white fluff. I'll go scrape the sidewalks with my new shovel before bed. My argument is the sustainability of such changes. Snow melts when the temperature sneaks above a certain point, I'll think as I shiver and shovel. It gets muddy as tires and boots travel over it and will drift as the wind blows. Regardless of a flake's desire to buck a trend, it's pretty powerless against laws of nature.

Even while acknowledging disappointment in my failure to rise above hated habits, I retain some tiny glimmer of hope for others. So if you happen to be an electron above your energy level - or are eyeing that longer orbit with plans to make a leap - picture me sending you enough energy to keep you up there a bit longer, with many good wishes for the future. And, if you have a good story about sustainable change? Please advise. I'll just be napping over here in my ground state.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Search Terms

I've been thinking of writing another 100 Things post. But they're so much work, honestly. Looking through links, thinking of facts, making sure all the old stories aren't too revealing. Instead, since my relationship with SiteMeter rests somewhere between overly-friendly and nearly-obsessive, I decided to link to posts that are read most frequently by strangers. After all, on a holiday weekend, perhaps someone would like to click back and read something I've written before! No? Just me? Fair enough.

"Question Game"
My most popular search term goes to a post (for I'm #2 on Google) that's not particularly great. I'm not sure which question game people are referring to, but, for me, this is it. And I've played exactly twice.

The confession here is that I'm pretty good at flirting online. It's easy for me to find something attractive about various men who read and write blogs so I'm genuinely interested in what they think. I type quite quickly so exchange of innuendo is satisfyingly paced. I'm reasonably funny and nearly adorable at times and I've finally reached the point where I don't expect much more than mild entertainment from these fellows. (Does that make me sound cyber-slutty? Over the course of 3+years, there have been 6 men. So it's not like I'm breaking records here.) Anyway. While the question game is a boring post, it occupied a rather delightful evening with someone who is a rather big deal in the blogging world. I remember sitting on my couch early in my post-doc, feeling utterly enamored of the fact that I was spending time with someone I thought was sharply talented. So I giggled and fluttered and enjoyed the exchange of random facts and flattering comments. Good times.

"Transitional Relationships"
I top the Google list here, sadly, and it never fails to make my tummy hurt and my heart ache a bit when someone new arrives to read my thoughts on this abomination of human behavior.

You see, there was a time before my enlightenment on entertainment versus attachment when it comes to men online. In my experience, men tend toward email friendships when they're figuring something out - a need for space combines with a craving for contact and that's where chatting comes in. Then a decision is made, life circumstances shift and I'm left without an email buddy. It's always a bit sad, but - if put in perspective - it's not the end of the world.

Worst case scenario is seriously falling for someone. There's this odd combination of being entirely infatuated with who he appears to be and imaging that everything you don't know aligns to your expectations perfectly. So, early on, I fell in love with someone and, um, it didn't end well. A number of factors played in, but I fixated on the fact that someone was getting over a serious relationship. Hence my seething hatred for the concept of hurting someone new to get over someone old and my utter contempt for those who aren't apporpriately regretful about their part in such a horrible act.

"What does D&D mean?"
Oh, this is a better one! For every time I see that search term, I think, "Dungeons and Dragons, my dear" and grin. I did some blind dating in grad school.

"To Whom it May Concern"
This is another one I like people to read. I think it's light and funny and rather darling. Cover letters can be fun.

"Red velvet cake" + "moist" or "dry"
I'm very sorry, bakers. I don't know anything about how the cake is made - a fact utterly obvious if you read the post. I was trying to be clever with an analogy! About how nothing is ever perfect and expectations to that end will lead in disappointment. Which, interestingly enough, leads you to disappointment if you're looking for baking tips. Again, my apologies.

And then there are the minor ones -
Gnats - Look for sources of water. And spray stuff on your plants. Oh, and I'm so deeply sorry for you - gnats are evil and must be destroyed.
Lip twitching - Happens to me when I grow enraged or extremely nervous. It'll go away.
Puppy paws and stings - I have no training in animal emergencies so the official answer is get thee to a vet. But, were it me, I'd try to pluck out the stinger, give an antihistimine and apply antibiotic/anti-pain ointment. But I just write a blog, so, really, see a vet.
Minor Revisions - Then there are the people who look for me, which never fails to make me curious. Did you used to read and are checking in to see how I am? Pretty much the same - different place, a new job, similar problems to the past. But there's something lovely about how posts continue to accumulate in the hope that someone finds something useful here. Or, at the very least, sends me a moderately flirtatious email.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks! But, no.

"Do you want to talk to your mom?" Dad asked when I called this morning. I'd snuggled and slept until I no longer felt tired this morning, deciding as I drifted toward consciousness that I'd skip today and go home tomorrow.

Longtime readers may remember my distaste for this particular holiday. For me, it's the kind of minor family gathering that begs for a buddy. And I've never so much as invited a man to attend the annual feast. Which is OK - it doesn't send me into some deep crisis mode as it once did - but I still feel bitter toward a holiday meant to make us feel grateful for pointing out what I want but don't have. Mom was disappointed, obviously, but not crushed. And I embraced the concept of catching up on some work and napping without guilt.

Still, I think Thanksgiving is a good concept. And though I've nary a turkey in sight, I can still indulge in counting blessings. I have decided - in honor of the unconventional celebration I have going - to include only minor and random bits of goodness.

  • Gas fireplaces that flicker and warm without any effort in preparation.
  • Colleagues who forgive my faults and apologize for their own.
  • Lip gloss that makes me feel prettier.
  • Sprout leaving the end of a dead mouse in his food dish for easier disposal.
  • Friend applying for a job! (I grew worried and was getting scolded for my 'helpful' inquiries.)
  • A soft, big bed with upwards of 10 snuggly pillows.
  • Candles scented of laundry detergent.
  • Well-meaning comments and friendly discussions.
  • A cup of chili with sour cream and cheese for dinner.
  • Eating said dinner while watching the SpongeBob movie in an otherwise quiet house.
  • Diet Pepsi. It's very good.
  • Finding time to polish presentations and complete documentation for projects I adore but others see as low priority.
  • White wine. It might be better than Diet Pepsi.
  • A family phone call that assures all is well at home. And they're eager for my arrival tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Facts About Me

One: On particularly bad days, I get chips and guacamole on the way home.

I walk into Qdoba, for it’s on the way from office to home, and my heels click sadly across the tile floor. I pass the burrito-making workers, wandering past the majority of delicious items as I inform someone of my simple order. Then I stare through the glass as a small plastic cup is filled. They use a small paddle-like device. It’s white and with it, they scoop up the green glop and smoosh it into the translucent container.

After scooping some chips into a paper bag, they toss the guacamole – and salsa if I ask for it – on top, fold over the edge and exchange it for a couple of dollars. Because it’s always been a bad day when I do this, I force my lips to curve when I say thank you. Then I walk toward my car, climb inside, unfold the top of the bag and turn the key. I pry the little lid off the plastic container and tuck it in my left palm, fingers wrapped around the steering wheel. Then I slowly nibble on chips that have scooped up avocado-based goodness while I make my way home.

Two: I prone to giggles. When upset, however, I grow disturbingly quiet.

“So,” Beaker said after I put the guacamole in a cup holder and answered my phone, “you seemed frustrated at the meeting today and I thought we could talk things out.”

“I was frustrated,” I confirmed, though it had been blatantly obvious. We’d had a conference call since Beaker and BunsenBurner left early for the holiday and Adam had called my name a couple of times to make sure I was still on the phone. That’s not typically necessary. I did not laugh at jokes. I didn’t make cute comments. I asked no questions and the statements I made were sarcastic and sharp.

“It’s not,” I explained, for I actually like Beaker a lot, “that I have a problem with purple. But we had talked and talked about this. I thought we communicated very well – that we were cool with keeping each other up to date. But I’d been telling Adam tan and you said purple and I was obviously shocked.”

“I made you look bad in front of your boss,” Beaker said softly, sounding terribly guilty.

Three: I take it personally.

“Well, yes,” I agreed. “But more than that, you’re not letting me do my job! And I look bad sometimes – that’s OK. But we need a process that makes sense so this doesn’t happen again. I’m supposed to know what’s going on so I can plan around it and try to assist. But I can’t do that if you guys are strategizing against me. And I thought we were friends!”

“Katie,” Beaker said, beginning to explain.

“No,” I interrupted, full of hurt feelings and blinking back tears. “That was unprofessional – I’m sorry. I just think we need a mechanism that’s more effective.”

“Katie,” he began again, “I’m very sorry you were hurt. I understand completely and feel terrible about that. Really. It’s just that I’m shitty at my job lately and I didn’t want to do beige and tan became uglier the more I understood about it. So we all did strategize and decided purple made more sense. I didn’t even think – which makes me terrible – about how it would reflect on you.”

“We talked for thirty minutes before Adam came in,” I said, still hurt. “And you didn’t tell me.”

“I know,” he said. “I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“We’re learning,” I replied, trying to be OK again. “And it’s fine – you’re not at all shitty at your job. That’s just silly.”

“No,” he protested and gave me a list of reasons he felt justified in his evaluation. I returned with my own list – we’re all under pressure and feeling badly about not delivering everything despite a lack of time and money with which to accomplish anything.

Four: I'm probably not going to just let it go.

I did scold Microscope, replying to his email and addressing his message calmly. I then added, “Just as a note, I’m perfectly capable of understanding words that are not written in all capital letters. I find fully capitalized communication to be unacceptably condescending.” He apologized for his tone. I apologized for being overly sensitive.

Five: I'm good at making people feel sorry for me.

“It’s fine to deliver bad news,” Adam said after pulling me in his office. “You made the right call on [unrelated matter]. But you should have done it by phone. I used to use email for that stuff too, but the telephone helps them get their frustration expressed, you can listen and apologize over and over and then you hope for the best.”

I nodded in agreement but didn’t speak. “I’m not being hard on you,” he said, looking concerned. “I’ve done the same thing. It’s not a big deal – just a learning experience for next time.”

I nodded again and he frowned at me, rolling his chair closer and patting the hands I’d folded in my lap. “You’re right,” I finally said. “I screwed up.” He looked worried and assured me it wasn't a big deal. Then he patted my shoulder and told me I was doing a wonderful job. This was a lie.

Six: I'm better at feeling sorry for myself.

And so – thinking of tense phone calls and irritable email exchanges, requests I must refuse and moments when I’m lost and frustrated and exhausted – I reached for a Kleenex rather than guacamole.

I cried and cried, noisy and messy sobs that made me shudder and sniffle. I mopped my face when I was done, moving ever closer to my house, and swallowed hard. As I waited for the garage door to slowly rumble open, I placed the lid back on the plastic container and replaced it atop the bag of chips before folding over the edge. I extinguished the headlights and turned the key before opening the door and exiting the vehicle. My heels clicked sadly as I moved across the floor and up the two shallow steps.

Seven: Blog posts, oddly enough, serve to soothe and settle.

While my head aches from the crying, I am feeling better now. I can do this. It will all be fine.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don’t Do That

“I know we’ve had this discussion multiple times,” I apologized to the three men in the room. “And I appreciate you setting up this meeting so we can wrap this up. So. We’re deciding between tan and beige, yes? Adam really likes beige, though I realize you all feel strongly about tan.”

Adam arrived a bit late and we sat at the table, discussing shades of brown. I knew Beaker was growing frustrated, though Flask and BunsenBurner kept their cools.

“Purple,” Beaker finally said. “I want purple!”

I blinked at him, mouth falling open a tiny bit in shock. Adam looked at me since it’s my job to understand these scientific resources and I shook my head and shrugged.

“Wait,” I offered gently, trying to recover. “We were talking about beige and tan. So even if we lean toward tan - which is what you wanted when we started here, you’re saying you like purple?”

“Yes. Purple,” Beaker insisted and I opened my mouth again, realized I had no idea what to say, and closed it before nervously nibbling my lip. Someone needed our room so we dispersed with an agreement to regroup tomorrow, Adam expressing shock at this development.

“Fuck me,” he sighed on our walk back to our building on campus.

“I know!” I agreed, having recovered sufficiently to throw a fit. “Purple! Where the hell did purple come from?! I’ve talked about this many, many times and I’ve heard nary a word about purple. I didn’t know,” I told him. “I feel stupid, but I was honestly shocked.”

“I could tell,” he said, mouth quirking into a grin. “Your mouth fell open – it would have been funny had I not been pissed.” I shook my head in response and he nudged me with his shoulder. “You,” he instructed, “talk to Beaker. It’s your job to predict outcomes and your people should not surprise you like that.”

“I know,” I nodded and met his gaze. “I’m sorry.”

He shrugged and waved his hand at me. “Talk to Beaker.”

“Beaker,” I said to his voice mail as I walked to my car later this evening. “This is Katie. So. Purple,” I paused to gather my thoughts. “Please give me a call – I need to understand what happened because that was... Well, we need to talk.” Realizing I’d let irritation slip into my voice near the end of my message, I clicked the phone closed and glared at it.


I needed a favor from Microscope. I’d talked to his boss, Telescope, and his immediate superior, um, MagnifyingGlass. Telescope had indicated this was a reasonable request so I was asking more because I’m polite than because I needed permission.

MagnifyingGlass indicated that Microscope was far too busy to handle the favor. It simply couldn’t be helped. So I shrugged – I understand being overwhelmed – and said it seemed as though the project could be accomplished if Mirror would support locally, we avoided any unnecessary cost, burned a CD and informed the customer two was between one and three.

My frown turned into a glare which morphed into clenched teeth and fists as I read Microscope’s reply.

The cost IS NOT unnecessary. While there isn’t a process defined, you can’t break the rules that we’re going to establish someday. We’re not set up to burn CDs to distribute information. We can ONLY help if there is someone local to assist. There is NO WAY two isn't between one and three.

My reply?

Unless you mean to be ridiculously condescending or have the language skills of a particularly moronic cockroach, writing words in capital letters is unnecessary, inappropriate and outrageously annoying. I am able to read and am much more likely to appreciate your message if you don’t yell at me while you’re delivering it, you fucking jackass.

Having said that, perhaps the lack of capitalized text in my email left you confused, dumbass. Let me try to help, though I’m not sure you’re worth the effort.

I assumed, silly me, that you weren’t yet able to distribute complicated manuals via mental telepathy and instead had to store the information on some device – like a CD! Which you should like since both its letters are capitalized! – to transport it. Please accept my apologies for not understanding you exclusively recited information from memory. Do you scream during the most important parts as well?

I also clearly noted the order was one, two, three. You’re clearly incapable of understanding even the simplest of concepts, you microscopic excuse for a teeny-tiny man.

I did not have a good afternoon.

The First Fall

My hands were itchy, I think, and the discomfort of rubbing at my knuckles urged me awake around 4:00 this morning. I mumbled something to myself about a humidifier and smoothed on lotion. Pleased with the silky smoothness of my skin, I considered curling up to sleep a bit more. I got as far as tossing the lotion aside and wrapping myself around a fluffy pillow, but soon blinked a few times and decided I was up for the day.

I like mornings. There’s the promise of hours stretching ahead of me, filled with all categories of things to do and see and experience. Best of all, if I wake early enough, I can sometimes sneak in a nap! (I like to experience sleep.) Feeling a bit superior – I was awake, the neighbors were asleep. I’m so winning – I gasped with utter delight when I glanced out the window.

“Snow,” I uttered simply, stopping to stare. My lips curved and I blinked back a few tears. “I’ve missed you,” I whispered, feeling inordinately sentimental, and hurried to send email to a friend so someone would know of my great fortune. For this wasn’t the “Look at me! I’m a flurry! Oh, well, now you missed it.” type of winter weather. Instead, there was “Get some coffee, brush your teeth - I'm big and fluffy and jolly in my robustness. I'll be around.” snow. A substantial amount – two inches, I’d guess, if I had any talent of estimating such amounts – blanketed the ground in a glistening glow that brought to mind Christmas songs.

“Should have bought a shovel,” I noted, heading downstairs with coat, hat, gloves, shoes and socks. I started coffee and stood at the glass door, smiling eagerly at the flakes that drifted happily toward the ground. Sprout emerged from the dog door, looking up at me and offering an informative meow.

“I see the snow,” I told him, reaching to smooth stray flakes from his stripey coat. He purred, wandering to his empty bowl and offering another informative sound. I obediently offered kibble and considered the efficacy of a push broom against the snow on my sidewalk after I'd returned to my spot at the door.

“I am awesome,” I soon declared into the quiet morning, bundled up and armed with my broom. Shoving the wet, heavy masses of white toward the curb, I worked happily. I’ve wanted snow for years, feeling powerfully envious each time someone’s blog would boast snowy pictures or stories of winter inconveniences. I’m sure I’ll have my own – I’m good at pouting complaints – but for now, there’s snow. And it’s impossibly lovely.

(The photos, by the way, are taken from my bedroom deck and driveway, respectively. How blessed am I?!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008


“Nearly completely,” I decided aloud, moving swiftly down a dark and quiet hallway at the office this morning. I am an introvert, I acknowledged as I basked in the lack of noise and movement in the large building. The thud of my tennis shoes against the carpet was barely audible and, apart from the random curses I uttered, there was only the gentle hum of idle machines. I left the lights off - my pupils are typically dilated enough that I don't struggle to see in the dark.

I printed documents without waiting in line. I used every piece of equipment my anti-social heart desired, alternating my frowning gaze between documents and computer screen as I tested new software. I made notes and filled in blanks without anyone interrupting to ask me questions, carefully placing the date after my initials. I wrote follow-up emails, filled all the while with gratitude that other people had lives and were unlikely to answer my messages until Monday.

I smiled on my way to check my mail, passing silently by man with ears covered by headphones without, loathe to disturb his steady weekend productivity. I skirted boxes in a dimly lit room, retrieving a few letters and packages from the spot that boasted my name. I moved to the car, tugging the sleeves of my sweatshirt down from where I'd pushed them about my elbows, and steered toward the store to fetch kibble. Thoughts of nearly empty pet food canisters at home left me hefting bags into a cart and picking up a few other essentials. I shook my head over aisle of Christmas decorations and meandered through the toy department. I even liked to play alone, I recalled. Brother was always the driving force behind having friends over or creating chaos.

Loading the back of my Jeep, I moved toward home feeling mostly pleased with my morning of productivity. The dog was walked, mail was fetched, work was done and necessary items purchased. I depressed the button that hangs from my visor and waited impatiently for the garage door to open. Moving in far enough not to hit the back with the descending door but not so far as to hit the wall with my front bumper (I've done both - I have trouble judging distances), I turned the key in the ignition and withdrew it so the friendly beeping would cease. (The Jeep doesn't want me to forget my key, and refuses to listen to my reasoning that it's safer in the ignition than going inside the house to get lost.)

I looked to my right, toward the door that leads to my pretty kitchen up two shallow steps. I closed my eyes tight and wished as hard as I could that someone would emerge to greet me. He would smell good, I decided, and kiss properly. He would listen patiently to my stories, be they happy or, more likely, wildly irritated. He would find my impatience charming and wouldn’t mind picking up dead mouse pieces from Sprout. Opening my eyes and cocking my head, I stared at the door for another moment, aching with some mixture of longing and loss. Nodding once in acknowledgment of the life I’ve chosen, I finally emerged from the car and opened the door myself.

Chienne charged outside, overjoyed that I’d returned home and I smiled at her as she leaped to greet me. “How’s the good girl?” I asked, grinning at her exuberance. I carried in my computer and a case of soda while asking if she'd taken a nap or patrolled the yard in my absense. Then I fetched the large bags of kibble, Chienne prancing eagerly around my ankles. (She really likes fresh food.) I watched her wave her front paws at me and obediently fetched her empty bowl, shaking my head fondly as her tail continued to wag as she ate.

I patted the happy puppy on my way to the living room, encountering a sleepy cat who had apparently heard the clatter of kibble as well. He moved toward the smaller dish, sniffing carefully before beginning to daintily nibble. I flopped on the couch to fill a new frame with photos of Little and Smallest Ones, hanging them neatly in the kitchen where I could see them all the time. “Almost,” I decided of my introverted nature, at once both loving and hating the quiet, “but not quite completely.”

Friday, November 21, 2008


It turns out that missing a night’s sleep does bad things to my brain. Migraine symptoms abound lately. I feel an inescapable need to sleep, growing unbearably dizzy when I can’t. My head hurts – sharp, unrelenting throbbing that makes me skin feel too hot and vision blur. I’ve taken medicine, nibbling crackers and toast to keep from expelling said painkillers, and breathed through the misery.

Email has arrived, each message piling atop the last, all of them eager for my attention. I’ve tried – reading and thinking and taking what calls I can. I felt better today, joining several conversations and growing only slightly snippy when people insisted on thwarting me.

“We need to pull the trigger here,” someone said and I rolled my eyes, wincing when it caused a sharp pain in my temple. There are a few business phrases I dislike – that’s one of them. We seem to be in this constant state of being almost – but not quite! – ready to pull this trigger. Make a decision, take an action, do a thing!

“More is lost to indecision than the wrong decision,” a salesman once offered. “You meet someone, you like the way she looks. Jump in bed and see how things go.”

“I’m a bit more discriminating,” I said seriously and did not return his grin.

But as the headache eases, I feel this need to wrap things up. Go or no-go? I keep asking people. Just decide. We’ll inform people. We’ll either lose because they’re disappointed or win because we did well. Either way, I’m tired of talking.

And if my headache doesn’t stop soon, I’m going to beg someone to aim at me before he pulls this trigger I keep hearing about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rise of Evil

I woke yesterday morning around 7. I was not particularly evil at that time, though I'll admit to any number of flaws.

I fell into bed at 5AM Eastern today after working with a customer all night. I snuggled into pillows, feeling the linens against my skin since I'd dropped clothing - piece by piece - on my way from the door to the bed. I was exhausted - nearly incoherent with a desperate need to sleep - and had grown increasingly impatient over the course of the night. Someone elsewhere in the airport hotel made a noise, likely rising to begin his day. I growled with such menace that I understood I wanted to harm him for daring disturb my precious rest.

"100% evil," I mumbled, still glaring around the darkened room, firmly warning the building into silence.

You won't like me when I'm sleepy.

I made it home, taking a conference call while I waited for the plane. I hung on while I traveled back, feeling completely sick. I returned home rather than dutifully heading to the office. After greeting a frantically happy puppy, I curled up in bed - this time comfortably clad in pajamas - and Chienne curled under my right arm. Sprout soon cuddled into my left side. And we slept.

Once I grow more rested and less incoherent, I'll tell you more of my adventure.

Monday, November 17, 2008


"Sorry I'm late," I offered, joining a 30 minute meeting 15 minutes late. "I got caught up in my last experiment." I nodded as the leader caught me up and offered an update on my own portion of the project. I apologized again when I left on time, though the meeting wasn't over, for I'd scheduled something else directly after.

"Right," I said to the telephone. "But your product isn't good, which is a problem. So I need the replacement. Soon." Then I apologized for my tough stance later - I like this particular company, but I'm not cool with a crappy piece of equipment.

"This is great," a colleague offered and I shrugged before saying I regretted that it had taken so long to offer the numbers he sought. "I'll do better next time," I promised.

"I'm sorry," I told a friend, speaking softly and reaching to touch her arm.

"It's not your fault," she replied, blinking back tears.

"I know," I offered. "But I'm still sorry." It turns out feeling badly about various events most of the day exhausts me. Just one of those days, I suppose.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cinnamon Candles & Candy

“I’ll take the penguin,” Mom decided as she was completing her purchase. I grinned as the shiny creature was nestled in bubble wrap and placed carefully in the shopping bag. Mom and Dad have always been good at giving presents. “He has a cinnamon candle in him,” she offered apologetically once we were in the car. “If you take his little hat off, he’s going to stink.”

My dislike of cinnamon scents has long been established - Do Not Want. When I didn’t feel well this morning, I climbed the stairs and curled up on the heating pad while I sleepily listened to their conversation.

“We should take the candle out,” Mom insisted and Dad soon abandoned his argument of just leaving the hat on and the candle alone. I smiled affectionately even as I began to smell the spicy sweetness, knowing some sharp implement was being applied to pry wax from a penguin. Objectively speaking, it wasn’t an unpleasant odor, but my nose wrinkled anyway. Feeling warm and drowsy, I tried to recall while I dislike spicy aromas.

Part of it, I admitted, is my fondness for sweets. I smell anything that could theoretically be placed in a baked good, and my poor brain gets all hopeful. “Cookie?” it asks eagerly, propelling me toward the source of the smell. “Where’s the cookie? I like cookies! I want a cookie!” Alas, the discovery of an inedible candle leaves me disappointed. So, on that level alone, I don’t approve.

But then I remembered a long-ago encounter with cinnamon. I used to love red hots – tiny, red bits of candy that were both spicy and sweet. Since they were a favorite treat, one of my parents must have offered ToddlerKatie a handful to enjoy. I decided, perhaps out of some latent experimental instinct, to stuff one up my little nose.

It hurt so I hid under the table while Mom flipped out, unable to pry the candy from my left nostril. She went to get a neighbor with medical experience while I wailed from the physical discomfort (turns out the nasal passage is sensitive to spicy candy) and hurt feelings from being scolded by my mother. (I was just trying something!) As it turns out, a runny nose from copious weeping melts the candy coating on the red hot, making it smaller and causing it to fall from a little nose, leaving red stains and a lesson learned behind.

I wandered downstairs, wrapped in a fluffy robe, and wondering idly if my nose was now big enough to fit a red hot or if noses didn’t grow all that much with age, and smiled at my parents.

“We fixed the candle,” Dad proudly told me and I pressed a kiss to his cheek, above his bristly white beard that makes him look a little like Santa Claus.

“It doesn’t smell anymore,” Mom agreed, rinsing the empty container out with soap and water. “You can put peppermints in it,” she suggested happily. “You like peppermints!”

“I do,” I agreed, cuddling close and wrapping my arms around her. Because in addition to being sweet and lovely, they’re obviously too big to fit up my nose.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Parents are here.

It has been a very pleasant visit. In contrast to the previous weekends my parents have trekked northward to stay with me, we’ve been very relaxed. Mom got up and began to clean my refrigerator this morning. I swept ceramic tile and vacuumed carpets while sipping coffee. I scrubbed the microwave while Mom began to cook – putting together a vegetable soup for next week and making a meat and potato casserole for this evening.

Dad made his way downstairs a little later and fixed the edge of my landing – he likes to use this oozy gel-like substance that turns into some super-cement. He climbed on ladders to change light bulbs that I always mean to fix while Mom handled load after load of laundry. I organized my closet, pushing summer toward the back and moving winter firmly forward. Strappy shoes were stored while more substantial footwear emerged.

We went shopping – I took them to a pub I rather like, we acquired some lotions for Mom and she purchased more shoes. Not finding anything I liked – and memory of the forty or so pair in my closet fresh in my mind – I abstained. We deposited my father at the house and continued on to another store, finally completing our shopping expedition around 2:00.

I placed two new pieces on hangers (and, yes, I have too many clothes already. But did I have a pretty, flowing blouse and black jacket? Actually, yes. But the former was a pale purple and the latter was more playful than what I currently own! It has bigger buttons and different pleats. And might be a very slightly different shade of black.) and rested a bit. Dad lit the fire, having watched me do so last night, and Chienne curled up on the loveseat with Mom while Sprout meowed piteously about being locked inside for the second night.

“Did I tell you my story about that?” I keep asking and preen when they focus on me and what I’m saying. (I do like attention.) It’s been a comfort – this time at home and around town, just puttering and spending time together. I’m feeling rested, the house is clean and I even found time to do a bit of work.

While I would have the television off to watch the fire rather than nudging the volume to ‘blare,’ it’s good to have them around. It feels like the depression of last week eases back a bit more each day, leaving me feeling grateful and cozy and as close to serene as I get.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Forced Action

“I thought all Americans wanted to be on TV.”

I frowned before replying to my boss. “I thought all British men were witty. I guess we were both wrong,” I concluded, trying my best to look haughty. Yet I laughed when he did and pleaded again to be released from the interview schedule this morning.

“No can do,” he said, patting my shoulder before walking away. “Ten o’clock,” I was reminded and scowled. My irritation turned to nerves as my microphone was arranged and someone fluttered around with lights and camera angles and whatnot.

“I feel dumb,” I told a colleague and she nodded in response. I made my way through some prepared remarks, unable to decide if I was more idiotic or awkward and relaxing only when I could tell myself it would soon be over. I answered a few questions, smiling easily at the man with too-white teeth and feeling comfortable with my responses.

“Now we’ll do the action part,” he said when the cameras stopped and lights finally dimmed. I nodded, promising BestWorkBuddy that I’d tag along while she was in the spotlight even as I hurried to unclip the microphone that could record my every word. I walked behind the equipment-laden crew as we moved between buildings, wondering if my hair had been reasonably pretty. If I’d touched my face too much or nibbled that spot on my lower lip.

BWB arranged equipment and I helped a bit, finally finding my way to a quiet spot without tripping over any cords. Filming the experiment, most of our visitors looking rather bored, and after much longer than it should have taken, they began to fill cases with bulbs and cords and cameras. We smiled at our guinea pig and thanked him for his time. He raised his hand in a shy wave before smoothing his hair and departing.

“We should have played a trick on him,” SlickReporter said. “Bent over the screen and stared at the numbers and made sad sounds. Then he would have thought something was wrong with him.” We all laughed in that way you do when you’re being polite but aren’t very amused. BWB was saving the data and it flashed on the screen – bit by bit – as it always does.

I watched absently, the habit of checking the archive procedure ingrained enough that I kept an eye on the monitor. Blinking when I saw something odd in the first component, my expression must have changed as my attention refocused. I abruptly stopped listening to SlickReporter in favor of carefully watching data. I jumped when a colleague touched my arm, subtly reminding me to shake hands and say good-bye. I wished everyone a nice weekend.

After watching them leave, I walked over and stood beside BWB as she pulled the just-collected data from memory and began to examine it. I thought of how I’d teased our young volunteer about how I would have left early rather than letting someone test a procedure on me on a Friday afternoon. I remembered how I thought he was cute, albeit very young looking. And I stared at the reproducible data that now rested on the screen.

“Something’s wrong with him,” I said quietly, wanting BWB – with greater experience – to correct me. I turned to look at her and saw she was frowning at the numbers, leaning closer to the screen. Just as SlickReporter suggested we’d do if there was reason for concern.

My stomach cramped when she agreed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

975 posts. 3 years. Comments?

I seem to return to the same mental image each time I celebrate another year of this little spot I have online. I was turning right into my subdivision from the lengthy road that took me out toward the lake when I decided to start a blog. I'd forced myself to work, knowing three months in that the post-doc wasn't going particularly well, and had returned to my first house early, defeated by my inability to do more or feel better. I didn't know exactly what was wrong, but feeling inadequate and small was inescapable.

In the beginning, I wrote for me. I wasn't ready for anyone to share my thoughts because the substance behind them had yet to be clarified. But with time and support - for I've always had readers of exquisite quality - I grew more free with my thoughts. Articulating feelings and memories, frustrations and goals became progressively easier as I practiced. I wrote posts I loved and others of which I'm not proud. I thought more carefully about myself in those moments spent writing, sometimes with a happy wish to share something nice and others with a desperate plea for someone to understand why I hurt so badly.

I met Friend, an event that deserves its own paragraph. As I drove away from my post-doctoral city, mopping at tears that refused to stop falling, I decided the reason I'd been there was to befriend this amazing woman who saved me more times than I can count. Luckily, I keep a daily journal so if one wanted to know about any number of jokes or arguments or evenings spent drinking or crying or working, there are archives. Bits of text that comfort me with their presence even when I don't look back at them. "You said," she told me as I continued to shake my head at the too-tall roller coaster, "that you owed me upside down. I'm not making you do that, so you should at least do this one! You wrote it on a blog so it must be true!" And while I'm not above fibbing or exaggerating to make a point, some of the most profound truths have been realized while my screen fills with words that are meant for the blog. That I know and love an extraordinary person who never openly minded my posting conversations and events (for I don't think I ever asked permission) is a blessing which leaves me awed.

Last year, I wanted to offer something new and different. That's happened, though I've met this new challenge with my typical mix of absolute elation and complete terror and dread. While some days have been difficult, I continue to believe this is right. I look around - while at home, work or driving between the two locations - and feel a sense of belonging. I'm busy and challenged and gaining a set of skills and contacts that seem highly beneficial. I'm trying to find a way to write without crossing any (major) lines and I'm not sure I always succeed. But my departure from academic research was good for me. And for those of you who endured much of the misery I documented for the past years, I hope you continue to see me pull of it. (Unless you're not such a big fan and are waiting for me to fail. If so, never fear! I screw up often enough to keep both groups happy, I'm sure.)

While on the subject of change, I've recently grown concerned about the trends that have emerged in parts of our community. I never fail to react strongly against anyone using a blog to make someone else feel small or inadequate, no matter how harmless or entertaining the intentions. So I'll say this by way of explanation, since I'll continue to stop reading (and lose all respect for) people I think are otherwise immensely talented because I abhor their disregard of others. They would have crushed me. I am overly sensitive and painfully defensive. Many of the words I put here required support, not critique, and whether someone writes a post or a paper, I wish we all reacted with a respectful pause that took their feelings into account before gleefully hacking away at them. This isn't - and hasn't been - a game to me. I'm deeply offended and viciously angry when someone takes a medium that's been so good for me and twists it into something painful for another.

When I realized I was wide awake just after 1:00 this morning, I plucked my eyebrows and flossed my teeth, biding time before growing sleepy. Then I smiled when I realized it's the day I officially talk about how much I love Minor Revisions! Last year, I was rather awed by people who left comments because I asked you if you would. So - if it isn't too much trouble - you could say hello again this year and feel free to ask any questions (or leave requests for me to stop already) as we head into year four.

Thank you. I doubt I would continue to do this if people didn't ever read it. So, sincerely and effusively, I offer many thanks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I don’t recall the moment where Mom told me she was pregnant with Brother. I was midway between ages four and five when he was born and I do remember going to the mall to pick out a toy.

“So you’ll keep Tenderheart,” Mom said, waddling at my side as she held my hand, “and give Birthday Bear to your little brother.” I’m reasonably certain I countered with an offer to let someone else have the baby while I kept the bear. This tiny creature would be the cause of my spending the first night ever away from Mom and, even worse, my precious toy room had recently been converted to a nursery. I most certainly did not approve.

Now, closer to age thirty than twenty-nine, I still try bargaining. And pout severely when thwarted.

“But,” I protested after being chained to my desk yet again, “I want to go! I told them I would and we’ve planned the dates and…” I trailed off when he continued to shake his head. “I want to go,” I said, frowning darkly and glaring as hard as I could.

“We’ll go later,” he said, returning gaze to computer screen.

“I want to go now,” I said softly, earning me a quirked eyebrow and a bit more attention from the man for whom I work. “Fine,” I said, when I realized he wasn't budging, closing my notebook with a snap, tossing my hair and moving briskly from the room. I glanced at the computer waiting on my desk but left it alone, instead slipping my index finger through the loop on my key ring and heading toward the door into the dark evening.

Just as I slowly accepted the little boy (who, by the way, slept with that yellow bear until he got married at age 21), I came to terms with Adam’s refusal of my request. So when the ringing of my cell phone was accompanied by his name on the display, I flipped it open and said hello.

“You can’t take it personally,” he instructed after greeting me. “You still have some maturing to do and things to learn so I don’t like you taking high profile trips on your own.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “because you have no faith in me at all.”

“No,” he laughed, “because I have much to teach you, young one.”

“Then you should do it!” I complained. “I feel like you’re setting me up to fail by not allowing me to do a vital part of my job and saying you’ll teach me later while everyone else travels all the time. So I am worried and don’t tell me not to worry because I am worried.”

“December,” he replied. “We’ll travel together next month.”

“Sure,” I said sarcastically, and blinked with dismay as soon as the word was uttered.

“I promise,” he offered and I nodded before offering a quiet agreement. We moved on to discuss another matter before saying a friendly good night. I wondered, having flipped the phone closed again, if I was tremendously lucky to work for someone who would take the time to explain a decision that had upset me or if poor Adam was just encouraging my bad behavior.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance (Rewritten Repost)

My grandparents were married in 1943.

Grandma worked at an ice cream shop during her late teenage years. One day, she told me, a charming young man with red hair and a goofy smile pursued her. I remember the curve of her lips as she relayed the story, how she shook her head gently while recalling that she refused his requests to spend time with her because he was two years her junior. He was persistent and charming, and she soon acquiesced. After a short but suitable courtship, they wed.

It wasn’t long before Grandpa headed off to war. Grandma had Aunt while he was away. We're nothing if not capable - the women in my family. There’s some element of calmly accepting the circumstances and finding a way to make them work. They were happy – Grandma and Aunt – though Grandma told me she missed Grandpa terribly.

I remember holding on to the railing with one hand when I was quite young, my other fingers curled around hers as we descended the stairs. She removed a box from storage and withdrew a stack of letters. Unfolding the flap of an envelope beginning to yellow with age, she took out a single sheet of paper. Cradling it gently in my hand – I was always careful with other people’s possessions – we proceeded to the globe.

“See this?” she asked, pointing with a perfectly rounded nail that, try as I might, I still can’t replicate on my fingers. “That’s Italy. And that island?” We squinted together while she waited for me to nod. Sicily is small on globes.

While keeping her index finger on Sicily, she helped me put mine on Peoria. And we looked at each other – my wide-eyed stare meeting her smiling one.

“That’s really far,” I breathed, turning the globe gently again so I could see her finger and thinking it very far from where mine rested.

“It is,” she agreed, pulling me on her lap.

“Since he was far away, and Aunt and I were here, we wrote letters. He’d tell me about how life was there, and I’d talk about what was happening here. And in a way, we were together when we’d write and read and wait for the next letter to come.”

I looked down at the paper in my hand. Carefully unfolding it, I remember examining the blue ink on the fragile yellow paper – translucent from design or age, I’m not sure – and finding it beautiful. Too young to read longhand script, I handed the page to Grandma. “Read it,” I requested.

Smoothing my hair back as I snuggled into her, she did. I curse that childhood version of myself for not paying closer attention. The dim light in the basement is insufficient to illuminate each memory clearly – only glimpses of shapes, feelings, and impressions remain of some moments. Still, I wish I’d memorized the words.

I do remember ducking my head into a giggle when she got to the part about how he missed her, how pretty he remembered her being, how eager he was to return home so they could be together.

“He liked you,” I said, smiling up into eyes that are identical to my own.

She laughed, and that I remember with perfect clarity. How her shoulders would shake a little, her teeth emerging in a full smile.

“Yes, he certainly did. I liked him too,” she concluded in a whisper.

We put the letter carefully back in its envelope, and I continued to marvel that it had come from so very far away. It was replaced in the box, because you always put things back when you were finished with them, and we likely played with one of any number of toys with which they spoiled me.

When Grandpa walked in the door at the top of the stairs, we decided to make the climb from the basement to meet him, my smaller voice calling a happy greeting. Grandma would have held my hand, helped me navigate the steps covered in bright orange carpet. But Grandpa jogged down and swept me up, making me giggle in delight and bury my face in his neck as we bounded up the stairs to the sunny kitchen.

It’s a good memory. I hope – if you’re so inclined – that you had time for one of your own today.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Give and Take

Tomorrow is apparently a holiday. I rather approve of the idea – working a single day and then having a free one offered in return. I almost left my computer at work, having completed an acceptable amount of work over the course of 10 hours, but remembered that I mightn’t come in on Tuesday. Shaking my head at the ridiculous thought of being away from email for an entire day, I packed up my electronics and walked to my car.

“So this project,” Adam said after he took a seat across from me this morning.

“I like your glasses,” I replied irrelevantly. He touched the silver frames and nodded before asking again about what I’d proposed and explaining why he’d refused to allow it. “I understand,” I sighed as our conversation ended. “I have to project sales and write this presentation and check on progress for all these products.” So while I don't always love Adam's priorities, I do appreciate his confrontational style of talking it all out.

Resigned to my fate, I argued with a visiting scientist, politely and firmly refused two requests and puzzled over numbers that simply didn’t agree. Irrationally tempted to just make something up, I continued to check documents against what was in the system and finally reached a conclusion. Sighing with relief, I closed the file and went to another meeting.

“I hate projections,” I told a colleague when I walked in a conference room. She nodded in sympathy and we settled in to understand the next of an endless series of Very Big Presentations. “Can we just use the same slides as last time?” I asked quietly and she nodded. Content, I settled in to daydream while the voices faded into a murmur around me.

I snapped at someone on a phone call, feeling rather pleased with myself even as I fought back a twinge of guilt. I attended another meeting that I thought would be miserable and ended up delightfully productive. I lost a $300 receipt that would have been reimbursed, but found it again once I returned home. (Oh, sweet $300 relief.) I waded through junk mail but found an offer for an iPod shuffle if I do a credit security trial. Delighted, I realized the credit cards had finally forgiven me for taking their gifts and promptly canceling whatever they’d asked me to try!

And – for my last give/take example – I’ll point out that I had time to write a leisurely blog post. That, unfortunately, wasn’t very good.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Breakfast, kibble and opportunity lost

“Oatmeal?” Carrie said when she visited me about a year ago. She’d wandered down the hall from the guest room, hair mussed and tugging at her pajamas and stared at where I sat with a cup of coffee.

“Oatmeal,” I confirmed with a smile and she nodded before shuffling back to the bedroom to put on clothes.

“It’s ridiculous,” she told me as we stood in line for a table. “I mean – oatmeal? But it’s just so good! I need more oatmeal.” I nodded in faux-understanding, rarely having craved something so mundane with that intensity. Yet I found myself walking through the grocery store this morning in my pajamas – yogurt in one hand, a box of granola in the other.

I feel I might have perished had I not obtained that specific breakfast treat as soon as humanly possible.


“Hey, buddy,” I said to the stripey cat when he leaped on the loveseat next to me. “How’s Mr. Sprout?” He purred as he curled up next to the laptop. I smoothed his coat and asked how life was going. I sometimes worry over him – there are days I don’t notice him at all. “I love you, too,” I told him indulgently as he continued to cuddle and smiled because he so clearly adored me.

I patted his head before going to get a glass of water, stumbling when he almost tripped me.

“You were hungry,” I said accusingly as he lingered by his empty bowl. “You’re only nice when you want something!” Still, I rubbed under his chin after replacing his bowl, now filled with kibble.



I missed research for the first time yesterday. I did some reading and had this neat idea that made me curious and excited. I wrote out a plan and revised it as necessary, then happily sent it along to my boss and several collaborators. I wanted to work on it!

Adam said no.

“You’re already overwhelmed,” he noted, “so you need to focus, not split your attention even more.”

“But,” I protested, “this is finally something I know and could do well!” I accept (or I will do) that I no longer do research. I also predicted I’d eventually miss the ideas and hypotheses and proposals. I was still struck by how much I wanted that project – not as much as yogurt and granola, mind you, but still! So I’m pouting and disappointed, but it’ll be fine.

After all, there's more yogurt and granola for tomorrow.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The First Fire

"It could be seasonal," Friend informed me of my struggle. I smiled, not because I particularly appreciated the advice, but because she had - not an hour earlier - told me that she understood I didn't want help and didn't want to talk and that was my choice but if I needed anything, I could call or write and she would listen.

"Thanks," I said simply of the former offer, withdrawing further into my shell of solitude. But I guessed she'd try again - Friend is good at the gentle nudges.

I found I felt better as we chatted - she typed that she was also very tired and a bit off lately. Perhaps I'm not so sick after all, I pondered hopefully. My brain just misses the sunshine and there are far worse things than that. So I took a walk yesterday, Chienne trotting happily at my side, and tried to work at an acceptable pace. I gave myself a break when I had to nap, head throbbing after dealing with more people who were disappointed in my lack of responses.

I woke this morning and smiled at the flurries falling outside the glass doors in my bedroom. I shifted so I could watch the tiny flakes swirl downward, melting as soon as they touched the deck off my second floor. I said good morning to the dog and cat, the former buried under blankets as she yawned widely, and got up to shower. I tugged on my robe after I was clean - soft, green terrycloth that I've had since college and rarely use - and went downstairs to fetch the clean laundry I'd forgotten to tote to the bedroom last night. I sipped coffee and settled into my chair to work, beginning to wade through emails and type out recommendation documents.

They day passed rather quietly - the chilly weather keeping my neighbors indoors and the weekend meaning most people (not me!) stayed away from their email so as not to reply to the messages I sent. I paused, realizing I could breathe a bit easier, when I was down to 20 messages from 300. The task had taken a good part of the day, but I'd relaxed into the work - the flow of communication and questions and decisions to be made - and it finally seemed manageable again.

"Better," I told Mom when we talked in the late morning. I'd called her once this week when I was terrified they were coming this weekend for a visit. "Next weekend, right?" I clarified. "I'm too busy right now - do not come here this weekend!"

"Good," she replied, sounding relieved. "I've been praying for you." I nodded, thinking that was a good plan, and talked to Dad for a bit before hanging up and returning to my work.

"Oh," I offered before I ended the call, "I'm going to light the fireplace today." I grinned into the silence that followed that statement, picturing them looking across the room at each other with alarm. "It'll be fine," I promised, "but should I blow myself up, I love you both very much."

"She'll end up moving home," Dad predicted of my gas+fire ability. "Then we'll have that dog and cat again."

But it went rather easily. I turned the little key in the socket on the floor and flicked on my lighter-device. My tiny yip of alarm was immediately replaced by a lengthy coo of pure pleasure when the fire whooshed and caught, filling the room with flicking light from orange and blue flames.

"Please," I said when I realized Friend thought I had lit wood on fire. "Like I could ever do that. Honestly." She agreed after a moment, but said gas wasn't the same.

"No," I replied, "but I can use it and it's very pretty and soothing." So I keep looking past the screen of my laptop at the fire that laps at what must be some faux-wood substance and makes the fascinating fluff under the "logs" glow orange. It's not sunshine - and this job is still going to be rough for the next few months - but today is much better than yesterday.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sadly Stable

No better. No worse.

I am realizing from reactions I've received that I'm usually a lot peppier. The flatness is part of a typical depressive episode for me - I don't think you're funny. I am irritated that you didn't do you job. I won't allow you to do something I think is wrong. And I'm not particularly patient in conveying this information.

I've muttered 'bullshit' under my breath today more than I can ever remember - my tolerance for people is not zero, but it's pretty low. It's not that I'm actively seeking to make others miserable, but I also don't really care if that's the outcome. But I recognize the symptoms and have made an appointment to discuss dosage.

So no worries - it'll go right in the end. Life is just hard right now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Something odd is happening. I keep thinking if I ignore it for long enough, the depression-like feelings will simply dial back and go away, but it continues to linger. I do well when distracted, as if keeping my mind busy forces the lurking crisis firmly into the background. But as soon as I try to rest or my surroundings get quiet, I struggle again. And it appears to be getting worse.

I was hired to do a specific job, working in tandem with a partner who would cover Task A. Which would leave me to happily deal with Task B. And I like B – it’s lower profile but super-cool. I know how to do it. I’d be pretty good at it. But I am – as is often my problem – without a partner. So I want to do it all – gain enough energy, clarity and talent to handle A + B – but I can’t. I’m trying – really, really hard most days – and I just seem to have this large crowd of people who want more from me than I have to give. And I’m starting to shut down.

Maybe if I spend less time in the office, I thought, trying to save my sanity. That didn’t work - it just made me feel guilty. Perhaps if I take time to relax, I thought as I made spa appointments, but that failed too. I could pray more, I thought this morning when I woke up from a nightmare-plagued sleep. Exercise. Work harder. Instead, I’m fighting this desperate urge to withdraw completely. Hide in my basement and read. Not check work email filled with emails asking why I missed a meeting, where those numbers are, if the slides were acceptable, when I was going to review the documents.

I can’t, I think, looking at them and feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. I cannot do all of this. It takes time and thought and expertise that escapes me. And Task B ends up ignored because I keep throwing effort at A in a fruitless attempt to keep from getting buried under it. And then my B people look betrayed that I was hired to help them and won't.

“Maybe I should move some things around,” Adam said when I looked blankly at him after he said something funny. “You don’t look good.”

I shrugged, thinking he was right but not wanting to admit defeat. I like being challenged, I told myself firmly. And given the economic climate, it’s good to be useful in several areas. And I can always work on B stuff in my free time!

“You can’t keep this up,” one of my favorite engineers noted after we had lunch and talked through an upcoming pitch. “Working evenings and weekends, being bothered when you can’t handle every detail.”

“I can’t burn out in three months,” I replied. “I have to find a way to do this.”

I just wish I knew how. I also wish these feelings didn't feel awfully close to depression.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I don't find voting particularly magical. I listened with some bemusement as people congratulated themselves and each other on standing in line and making a choice. Which is good - yay for voting and everything - but it just failed to do much for me. (Though I am watching results come in. Looks good. Well done, America, but you've let me down before.)


After my 'eh' reaction to voting, I responded with pure delight at finding sunglasses on sale for 90% off. I tried on black and brown, round and oval, big and little. Each was $2.60! Clearance! I bought six pair and was nearly giddy as a result.


After getting to work late, Adam called my name before I made it to my desk. I turned and followed him into another meeting, waiting a few before asking what he needed.

"Do you have to be somewhere?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at my impatience. I nodded and motioned to my hair, yanked as it was into a messy knot, and said I had an appointment with a stylist and had to go soon.

"Obviously," he grinned and laughed without meaning to. "Well, go then. Hurry up - can't be late for something as important as a cut." Exactly, I thought with a grin, and headed out of the office again.


"Every time I have to talk to her," I told Adam later that afternoon, "I want to quit my job so I never have to see her again. Seriously," I shook my head when he laughed, "I do not like that woman."


"You're welcome," I replied again to the expressions of thanks. Our salespeople asked if I'd take some important clients to dinner this evening. We had steak - really good, really expensive steak - and I enjoyed the conversation. But spending $300 on dinner for 4 people still strikes me as excessive.


I expected McCain to win. With the Ohio projection, it appears the Midwest did well. I'm rather moved now, finally accessing the emotion that eluded my morning. I'm proud. I very much hope these results give us reason to hope.

Monday, November 03, 2008


“Preferences aren’t at all understood,” a visiting scientist told me, causing me to raise an eyebrow in response. “Let’s say you go shopping and you need lipstick.”

“I wear lip gloss,” I offered.

“But when you picked it, you probably could have listed reasons for doing so,” he paused and I nodded. “But you made that up after you had it in your hand. Something triggered you to look at it and decide you wanted it – the packaging, smell, shape – and that process isn’t very well understood.” Thinking I’d heard that from someone else so there was a chance it could be true, I shrugged and moved on with my life.

I sighed happily after work, deciding that I didn’t care what triggered my pleasure in this experience. I’d checked in and tucked my clothes in a locker, slipping into a borrowed robe instead. I shuffled out to the lounge in fuzzy slippers, looking with curiosity at the large silver bowl filled with sudsy water.

“We offer all our massage clients foot soaks,” my therapist said, kneeling in front of me. I obediently removed my slippers and submerged my achy feet. I wiggled my toes in the hot water and relaxed into my chair before leaning to sip from my goblet of cool water. I considered the magazines artfully arranged within easy reach of my position, but opted to stare into the fireplace, losing any sort of focus as the flames flickered. There were hundreds of tiny tiles covering the walls in soft shades of blue and green. They caught the soft light filling the room and reflected bits of it, turning everything soft and pretty.

“Oh,” I smiled sheepishly, not having noticed my therapist return long minutes later. “Hi.” I watched as she dried my feet and put the slippers back on, picked up my water glass and motioned for me to follow her. “I could have fallen asleep there and been happy,” I offered, and she smiled before telling me where to hang my robe. I nodded and waited until she left the room before placing it on a hook and wondering at how comfortable I felt being naked. Prone on a table, I smoothed my palm over luxuriously silky sheets and snuggled under a fluffy comforter. Nodding with approval, I rested my head on the rest and closed my eyes.

“I’ve had many massages,” I told the woman when she entered again, “but this is already quite wonderful.”

“I haven’t even started yet,” she said and adjusted the lights and music before crossing the room. “These will be warm,” she warned and placed smooth, heavy objects in the middle of my back, having moved the soft sheets aside. I murmured something indistinct, feeling my muscles loosen and relax. Wiggling my toes again, I sighed heavily as she began to coax tension from my ankles and arches.

Instead of outdated pop music and questionable odors of pizza and nachos and too many people of yesterday, I breathed in oil scented with mint and lavender and listened to piano and strings at perfect volume. I flipped over when instructed, wriggling a little to enjoy the sensation of warm, soft relaxation and decided that lying on a padded surface and surrounded by microfiber sheets (I asked what they were) was infinitely better than standing in line. Instead of the "rush" of racing toward the ground, I breathed deeply as she coaxed tension from my body, nearly purring with pleasure when she started to work on my scalp.

“Would you like to try our steam shower, Katie?” she asked after telling me she was finished. I blinked several times to focus and said that sounded nice, my words sounding slurred. I stretched before sitting up, almost ending up on the floor when my slippery feet touched the tile and I stood. Regaining my balance, I finished my water and wandered toward my robe and slippers. Exiting the room in search of the shower – and, eventually, my clothes – I smiled sleepily when I encountered my new favorite person again.

“This way,” she grinned and I nodded as she instructed me not to touch the steam vents.

“I’m blissed out,” I replied, “but I’m not that far gone.” I soon realized I might soon get that far gone while I removed oil from my skin with sudsy water. “Well, that’s just delightful,” I said with a smile of appreciation toward the vents that were filling the stall with fog. I wiggled my fingers at it, twirled around a couple of times and basked in the warm humidity before peeking out of the shower and going to fetch a soft towel.

I don’t care if there are valid reasons or not, I decided as I offered my gift card and left a hefty tip. I like spas better than amusement parks.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


"It should be the best one," Friend decided while I stared up at the metal structure in utter distaste. I wrinkled my nose as screaming passengers sped by us, having come down from 20 stories or so at a 65 degree angle.

"Do Not Want," I said clearly, shaking my head to prevent any sort of confusion.

"It doesn't even go upside down!" she insisted. "It'll be fun. You'll see."

"No," I refused firmly. "Too high, too fast, too evil. Do Not Want."

I did not mind the indoor, twisty roller coaster, saying offering a mild "goodness!" when the sharp turns shoved me against the side of the car. I giggled through the roller coaster where the car spun around - I do like spinning! I felt a little woozy after the old, wooden ride.

"That was my first time," I confirmed after we climbed out of the car after our third ride of the day. I've had nightmares about falling that fast, but I'd never willingly gone that far into the air and then sped toward the ground. It made my head feel funny and I think I squeaked more than screamed, but I survived and almost enjoyed the shaky feeling that followed the experience.

"I'll do that one," I said, pointing to the prettiest of the wooden rides. I brushed off Friend's protests that this would be more wicked (I don't even know what that means - something about hurting my head less) but as people screamed above us, going 70mph, I continued to shake my head firmly. I enjoyed the aftereffects of the turns and drops of the pretty ride and my muddled brain somehow agreed to stand in line with Friend for the Scary One.

"If I do this," I said, irritated that I was giving in, "can we leave?" She nodded in response so I followed her to step inside the train, pulling the restraint as tight as possible and resolving to endure this "fun." I eschewed the 'hands in the air, feet dangling wildly' posture in favor of gripping the lap bar until my hands were aching and tucking my feet under my seat. I squinted my eyes and yipped with alarm a couple of times. I heard Friend laugh when I cursed midway through and glanced over to scold her. I was distracted by how happy she looked, going up and down and around sharply banked turns on a smooth, metal track. Pleased she was enjoying herself, I still sighed with happy relief when we found a flat piece of track and moved slowly toward the station.

I blinked back tears when I dropped Friend off at the airport. I yawned copiously while driving home. I winced while walking in from the garage, feet aching from standing in line most of the day. I still don't get it - why it's fun to be frightened, how the woozy effects are oddly pleasant. But I can ride the freaking things, even if only under duress.

Photographic Evidence

Deciding we'd slept late and were feeling a bit lazy, Friend and I decided to delay the BAP (Big Amusement Park) for a day. Instead, we ran errands - shopping for clothes and shoes, groceries and alcohol (for a had nary a drop before she came to visit and am now the proud owner of 6 or 7 bottles of goodness. That Friend bought since my credit card company put a safety restriction on the card and the liquor store declined the shiny plastic) and a loveseat for my living room. The day was ridden with problems.

"I like it," I decided as we stared at the leather-look piece. We'd already shopped for clothes and I'd made multiple people sigh as I held up the line since the clerk had forgotten my discount. Embarrassed, but $24 richer, I realized I'd lost my sunglasses somewhere in the store. I tried to brush it off as we stood in a large showroom, surrounded by furniture. "And it comes with the ottoman. With my coupon, it wouldn't be terribly expensive. But do you think we could fit it in the car?"

I turned a beseeching gaze upon Favorite Friend when the guys at the loading dock shook their heads. They suggested we rent a truck and return for the piece, helpfully sliding the smaller ottoman in my Jeep. We returned in two cars ("Why didn't we leave yours at Home Depot?" Friend asked, perched high in a pick-up while twine was wound around the furniture being loaded in the back. I paused and thought as hard as I could, then shrugged and climbed up next to her.)

"Turn left," I suggested and she obediently hit the signal and changed lanes. "Now right," I decided, unsure of where we were in the quaint downtown area. "Huh," I offered once, "I've always wondered where that was! This is like a tour! In the truck you rented!"

"Thanks," she replied dryly, but continued to make multiple turns as I headed in a direction I thought might be correct.

We finally made it, unloaded the heavy loveseat (it contains a twin-sized bed) and left it in the garage so we could return our rented vehicle. "Now," I sighed, feeling grateful but resigned, "I owe you upside-down roller coaster rides. And I hate upside-down!"

We returned home to grill a steak and put together salads, hook up my new printer and coax the loveseat through the front door. While she was checking in for her flight home tonight, I decided (a bit drunkenly) that it made sense to toss the 3 new pairs of shoes upstairs from the foyer.

"Ow," I moaned, hand moving to my nose when a black kitten heel bounced off the railing and injured me. "It hit me right in the nose!" I heard Friend laugh as I went to get ice.

"Fuck," I bit off at one point and she shook her head.

"No 'fuck!'" She chastised me. "The restriction is off your card since you called, we got the loveseat to the house and through the door. The new printer is working. We're drinking. And maybe your nose won't bruise."

It didn't, but I'm still a bit worried I'll end up incapacitated after a day with scary rides. My luck just isn't so strong lately.