Wednesday, July 30, 2008

False Impressions

"They're fake," I murmured upon closer examination. "Pretty, but pseudo-flowers." I was involved with upper level meetings today and subsequently had access to the nicest of the meeting rooms. I had gone to get coffee and wondered how the white flowers stayed so fresh and lovely.

"They're not real," I told a colleague when she came to get coffee too.

"No," she replied, not looking surprised. "Sometimes they change them though." I nodded and tried to decide whether or not I was offended by the lack of fresh flowers. I looked at them again and decided they worked quite well, finished stirring cream in my coffee and returned to the conference room.

"I have to leave early," I said to Adam and Bailey this afternoon. "I'm meeting with a fence guy. I need a fence for my dog," I elaborated when they looked confused. I made a face at Bailey when she rolled her eyes at me and covered a couple points with Adam. He nodded and wished me luck with the fence. Before I went too far, I heard Bailey tell him she had a hamster funeral tomorrow and wouldn't be in until noon. I turned around, laughed with them and returned Bailey's wave before walking out into the sunshine. I'm comfortable there - when they make jokes, I know they're sometimes related to me, but not at my expense.

The same was not true in my post-doc. I therefore took offense at playful remarks. It was never that I didn't want to contribute. But when the slides I made weren't included in presentations, when my attempts to guide projects were rebuffed, I continued to withdraw.
I avoided meetings because I felt I hadn't been good at my job. And I didn't like feeling that way. And while I did get frustrated, I never would have refused a sincere request for help.

I therefore sighed when my reply to an email this afternoon was met with abject gratitude. If I had something people at my former institution needed - even if I did glare at the specific person sometimes in meetings because I thought he was a jackass who purposely excluded people - of course, I can give it to them. Did they really think I'd pitch a fit and refuse? And, if so, how did I make them think that? So I spent some time gathering information and sending emails this evening after doing much the same all day, albeit for a different purpose.

The issue with how I'll be remembered at my postdoctoral institution mirrors how I feel about the flowers. Is either ideal? Probably not. Does it really matter? Not so much. Or at least I hope that's the case.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Violet's Trip North

“Violets don’t travel well,” Friend warned me. “It might be best to leave it with Jill.”

“No,” I refused, frowning with great concern over the plant I transported home. “She told me to take it so it’s coming north with me.”

The plant, for those of you new to the blog, belonged to Winnie. When she died during my first year as a post-doc, Jill took the small pot and it flowered continuously under the lamp on her desk. When I ended up moving to Winnie’s desk, she gave the plant to me and I’ve kept it for the past few years. I spent therapy sessions crying over why it wouldn’t produce flowers for me and finally ended up with a bottle of violet food and enjoyed about a year of pretty purple blossoms.

Friend, as is her habit, was correct. I’ve picked off dead leaves and given early morning pep talks to the plant that currently sits on one of the shelves in my office. “I know you won’t flower right away,” I said, gently coaxing, “but it’s important that you don’t die. OK? No dying. You have light, it’s nice and warm and the people are friendly. We’ll work on the flowers later.”

I’d just left a meeting where I was very slow and cranky at around 2:00 yesterday afternoon. It was Monday, I despaired, and I was utterly exhausted, wanting nothing more than to go home and sleep. I quickly composed a note to Adam saying that I was sorry, but I wasn’t feeling well and would he mind terribly if I left early?

I paused to read what I’d written, thinking with some dismay that it sounded incredibly similar to many notes I’d written Boss. I blinked at the words then clicked the button in the corner to close the window. I confirmed that I didn’t want to save changes, went to get some water, took an Advil and set about working for an hour until my next meeting.

“In a way,” I told RL on our Sunday walk around her town, “it’s good that I screwed up the post-doc so badly. I know how it feels to have people look at me as unreliable and inept. I didn’t get invited to meetings because people weren’t sure I’d actually come. They read my absences not as a personal struggle, but as professional disinterest. It made me feel worse about myself, and I continued to withdraw, and the situation continued to worsen.”

My strategy to correct the problem obviously included leaving. It seemed easier, frankly, but the main reason involved the acknowledgment that I was miserable a lot of the time. I didn’t want it to be so hard to go to work. I dreamed of a job where I wouldn’t have to force myself to stay put until the end of the day. And while I am happy here and I think this was the right decision for me, it’s not all sweetness and light.

The job isn’t perfect, though it is very good. I still get overwhelmed or sad or exhausted. And I respond the way I always have – I desperately seek escape. I’ve woken up a couple of mornings and gone through my handy list of reasonable excuses for not showing up, but winced when I realized I ran out of new ones during my three year post-doc. Not again, I told myself firmly, and got out of bed and into clothes. And though I was feeling terrible yesterday – and my mood reflected it as I found myself apologizing for snapping at people or spacing out and asking folks to repeat questions for me – I stuck it out until 5. To point out the obvious, I wasn’t flowering, but I didn’t die.

“Key challenges?” Adam asked at the end of our meeting yesterday evening. We spent an hour going over my progress and plans and problems.

“Um,” I said, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, “I should get started on ScaryProject. I’ve been focused on areas that come easier to me, but this week is devoted to the scary one.”

“OK,” he said with a decisive nod. “Where will you struggle?”

I took a moment to enjoy the way his accent made the word ‘struggle’ sound, then listed some issues I might face as he scrawled them on a paper. After I finished listing them, I was feeling a bit intimidated and afraid. So I shook my head, withdrawing into silence when he asked if I had questions.

“Get it done,” he said, winking at me before handing me the paper on which he’d written the areas I might stumble. “Ask for help, gather resources and get this done. You’re capable and I’m going to push you on it.”

I nodded after pausing for a moment, assuring him I could handle it. He said he knew I could, smiled at what was likely a fearful expression and allowed me to scurry back to my office. Then, since it was well after 5, I came back to the hotel.

I was in bed and asleep by 7:30, which hardly seems ideal. While I want to be clear in expressing industry positions as a valid option for well-educated scientists, I don’t want to be misleading about my adjustment. There are moments where it hurts. But given that I have no desire to return to academic research, there is a great deal of motivation to make this work. And having seen the consequences of failure firsthand, so far I’ve been forcing my way through each and every day.

I was a bit late this morning, though I still arrived before most of the group. I drank coffee, though I didn’t really want it. I’ve stopped having it first thing in the morning – I don’t like my small coffee maker at the hotel – so I get a free cup at work when I arrive.

It’s important to do that, I decided as I sipped. I felt myself grow sharper and less drowsy in the 20 minutes it took me to read email and finish my drink. I printed pages I needed to review for ScaryProject. I answered emails and set up meetings and organized my computer equipment. I went through boxes that were left in my office, set out the few things I had to decorate my space and went to all my scheduled meetings. Then emails started to arrive and I found my starting point for ScaryProject. I found old notes I’d written that are relevant and began to sketch out ideas and typed lists and slides.

I took a picture of the violet before I left today – admiring how it was perking up and how amazing my new camera is. (I realized when I got home that I need the connector to transfer pictures as well as charge the battery (I think). So I’ll update the post with a photo later on. But the camera is perfection! So happy!)

“We’re figuring it out,” I whispered to the plant before I left. “And now that you’re not at death’s door, we can start talking about flowers.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Dream of a Library

Should you ever come visit after I move, you could walk in the front door and glance to your left into the office.

I want to make it a library.

It's not a big room, nestled into a front corner of the house. But I can see shelves reaching toward the ceiling, holding all the books I've accumulated over the years. I could put art on the walls between the shelves, making it seem like I'm all cultured and cool. Of course, you'd only have to look at the row after row of romance novels to see that's not the case, but I could always try to hurry people past the library and toward the back of the house.

What I love about those daydreams - thinking of shelves and books and wandering up two steps in the living room, over the landing and down those two steps in the corner of the office - is that it's all possible. I'll save some money and research shelving options that match the wooden railings and baseboards. I'll negotiate a reasonable deal and have my parents help me assemble and arrange the furniture. I'll place books haphazardly - I tend to run my finger over the spines until I find one I want to read rather than look for something specific. And, someday, I'll have a room that's similar to how I picture it.

Life, unfortunately, is less certain. Perhaps the more adventurous of us find that dazzling - I find it exhausting and scary. From writing email to Jon and wondering where we're going, to meeting with Adam and getting an intimidating list of things to do next, it's just making me tired. So my plans tonight include a shower, plucking my eyebrows and an early bedtime.

My hope is that I'll snuggle into my new pillows and dream of a library in the front of my new house.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Repressed Librarian and the Lovely Afternoon

“What’s that one?” I asked, holding a basket in one hand, coffee in the other. I nodded as the salesperson explained the fragrance and fizziness and nodded in approval. “I’ll take it,” I decided. “How about that one?” I pointed to a blue bath bomb in the back of Lush and glanced between the employee helpfully bagging bath products and placing them in my basket and Repressed Librarian who stood beside me, offering a few thoughts and holding my tiny bag of make-up from Sephora. I leaned forward to sniff experimentally and decided I’d take two of the lavender one.

“You’ll be ready when you move in and have your new bathtub!” RL decided and I nodded happily, thinking longingly of a Friday in late August. We wandered through the mall, chatting easily and examining bedding and drapes before I decided on pillows.

“I need two more, I think,” I told her absently as we moved toward the exit. She, having been good, carried a small bag containing two casual, yet elegant, tops. I balanced the pillows and corresponding linens in one hand with my bounty from Lush in the other and tossed them in her backseat as we headed back toward her town. I went through an elaborate explanation of my sleeping patterns and how I arranged the pillows. Then I winced when I realized it was terribly boring – the kind of rambling I’d normally edit out of my blog. But I glanced at her quickly, relived when she didn’t seem ready to jump out of the car at high speeds in order to escape my inane conversational topic.

“You made the errands I was dreading seem indulgent,” she said and I preened. I like her and was very pleased she seemed to enjoy time with me.

In truth, we had much to discuss. Blogging and boys, trips and work, food and finances. I pounced on her offer to buy her camera, confirming multiple times she was happy to part with it and quickly loading it in my car after writing her a check. A tiny camera of high quality for far less than I would have otherwise paid! And I got to give money directly to someone I enjoy a great deal! Happiness! We might have a garage sale together once I move and get settled! Hooray!

I set off with a hug and a wave after several hours, navigating my way toward my new home without using the interstates.

“I made it back,” I said when I called my parents. Brother has moved out again – a fact that hurts me a huge amount though I’m loathe to discuss it – and the girls have stayed with my parents for the past four nights while Brother and his wife go out. Separately, of course, but still. I’m disappointed and worried about Little One and concerned that Mom isn’t sleeping well. Brother is drinking heavily and though I don’t like Brother’s Wife, I do think she tends to be a good mom. Sometimes. “The drive was even pretty and relaxing. I had a wonderful afternoon,” I told them.

And I did – not thinking too much about work or stress. I laughed and shopped and came home with various treasures that I admired when I arrived at the hotel.

“You helped me,” I told RL over brunch. “You were unhappy, but you changed your career path and lifestyle. I was so pleased for you – reading about how you were so bright and busy - and badly wanted that for myself. And though it took me longer than I would have liked, I think I did it.”

She agreed and I smiled and nodded. And though it’s always a work in progress, I spared a moment or two while we were walking together – around her adorable, little town or through the mall – and felt profoundly grateful that I’ve been part of such a supportive community. I don’t think I’ve said it lately, but I very much appreciate that you read.

“I keep thinking I’m getting boring,” I confessed. “I’m being redundant as I get settled and I don’t want to lose my people!” We both laughed, but I think RL’s read me enough to know I’m rather serious about it. I like caring about other people’s lives and keeping up with their blogs. And it makes me feel…important and special, I guess, that people sometimes stop by and read. Given that I absolutely adore the two of you I’ve met – Friend and RL – it seems impossibly cool that you’re out there. And – after about a month – I’ll have room for you to come visit! Just let me know – I’ll save you a bath bomb.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Adieu, Audit Lady

At first, I was pleased my postdoctoral institution would forward my email for the next 18 months.

“Isn’t that nice of them?” I asked Friend, my closest companion for the time I spent doing research after graduate school. She remained unimpressed, hypothesizing that there must somehow be a catch. With visions of reconnecting with lost friends who used my old address at Christmastime, I somehow missed what Friend foresaw.

“Dear Katie,” the note began. “I still have not received the necessary documentation to complete my audit of your study. I know you have taken another job, but you still must revise and resubmit the proposal to committees entitled Bad and Worse. In addition, I require these three forms to be completed and returned. I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.”

I sighed when I saw it, frowned darkly while I read it and swore when I was done. I folded my arms across my chest and tapped my foot on the floor, agitated and annoyed. I recalled my training in how to respond to events such as these – unfavorable reviews of papers or grants, unreasonable timelines from collaborators, disappointing reception for abstracts, and bureaucratic nonsense. Read. Understand. And wait. Let the emotional intensity decrease and respond with polite acquiescence. Find another journal, make changes in my proposal to get past a review committee, change my plans to deal with new workload requirements, fill out the stupid forms and make the infernal revisions.

“Dear Audit Lady,” I typed after a moment of giddy realization. “I understand the necessity of ethics review and audits thereof. I have carefully planned and executed several studies, always allowing for adequate time for IRB approval. But, frankly, I find requests to revise and resubmit studies that have been closed to be ridiculous. I’m afraid I’m unable to accommodate your requirements.”

I’m happy to be working in industry. I like the direction. I embrace corporate structure. I rather enjoy the meetings, especially when there are treats and coffee and lunch. Sharing a goal with my team is delightful – I’ve yet to miss those worries of who will take first authorships. I shrug off paper rejections and instead coo over my pay stub. I love my job. And, to be fair, I felt lucky to do research and work with some brilliant, wonderful people.

But I saw another email from Audit Lady arrive, continuing her demands without any reasoning behind them. I pondered my reaction for approximately two seconds. Then I pressed delete.

“I’m done,” I said out loud, closing the laptop with a satisfyingly final click to underscore my point. “I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.”

And while I’m sure I’ll sigh and handle any number of ridiculous tasks on my current career path – and I’m equally certain I’ll blog about them – it felt amazing to ignore that email. Farewell, Audit Lady. Good luck with your forms.

Friday, July 25, 2008

First Work Trip

Written This Morning
I recall the last time I sat mere feet from where I’m currently resting, ankles crossed and feet tucked neatly beneath my chair. The creaks and hums of the escalator are familiar and, given that this hotel was booked, I walked directly here from where I’ll stay tonight (and where my car parks now) without even a moment’s worry that I might get lost.

There’s something lovely and painful about rising very early to prepare, then tucking myself into a car and speeding toward my destination. The meetings begin early this morning and, given construction and traffic, I didn’t want my arrival to be belated. So I grumbled a little bit as I brushed my teeth and curled my hair. I finished throwing items in my laptop bag and overnight case. Then I moved down the stairs of the hotel toward my car, taking a bit of pleasure in the way my skirt fluttered about my knees.

I wore this outfit when I met Jon, I remembered, and felt sad for a moment. I’m still confused. I like him, but I see a number of barriers between who we both are and any romantic relationship. Differences are interesting, but when we seem to look at life in ways that seem opposing, that’s a problem. And it wouldn’t be for friendship – I can enjoy and appreciate all sorts of different quirks and qualities in people – and I’m sure I’ll come to adore Jon as I know him more – but I don’t think I’ll get to keep him. And it’s growing tiresome to meet wonderful men and realize they’d likely be happier with someone else.

I almost invited him on my weekend trip. I have a beautiful hotel room I won’t use but for sleeping. All the vacancies were doubles. I do love this city and certainly wouldn’t begrudge anyone a free adventure downtown. But it’s too soon. And I don’t know. Given that I will be working and likely tired, and that we’ve only met once and he has to work today, it seemed wiser to keep that idea to myself. But I’ve wondered if – as we see each other more – the desire to be with someone separates neatly from this spark of wanting to be with this someone.

I think it’s part of why I’m dazzled by cities. The sheer magnitude of people living and working and loving and breathing the same air here – being stacked vertically because going horizontal requires too much physical separation. And everyone needs to be here – near where the lights are brightest. The skyline sparkled in the pre-dawn light as I finished a trip that was a bit longer than I expected. But it felt good to return, to see familiar sites and remember that I had to turn left from the middle lane to be able to U turn into the valet parking of this particular hotel.

I keep glancing away from the screen, watching the lobby begin to awaken. There are laptops opening and a spare student or two with poster tubes. As for me, my purpose is the same as the last time I was here. I’ll listen and learn. But this time, my focus is on a topic that’s new to me. Now that the academics are beginning to ride the creaky, humming escalator, I glance up at them and smile. I don’t put the letters at the end of my name anymore, though I’ll trot the P, H and D out if people are condescending. But I remain (redundantly, I know) relieved to not be one of them right now.

Finished This Evening
My meeting ended several hours before I expected and I found myself with a guiltlessly free afternoon. I flipped open my phone to call a friend who lives here with a thought that I’d see if she wanted to meet for dinner. But then I tried to remember the last time I spent time alone. It was suddenly hugely appealing – the thought of wandering and shopping and maybe visiting a museum. So I changed clothes and looked out from my beautifully lavish hotel room on the fourteenth floor.

There were people everywhere – crossing the street or congregating on corners. Carrying shopping bags and shuffling along in flip flops or prancing in smart suits and elegant purses. I stood there for a moment, peeking between the sheer drapes and looking down on the busy streets. I smiled, tied my shoes and tucked my purse under my arm. I did some shopping, crossed some streets and waited on corners for the lights to change. Joining a crowd between two lion statues, I walked through doors without paying admission and walked slowly through galleries, pausing to read placards and admire paintings, to peer through glass at china or bend to examine furniture.

I selected two prints to place in my new dining room. I walked back to my room, tossing my hair back when I crossed the river, stopping momentarily to buy some water in the park. And now I’m back in my room, pleasantly tired and ready to take a bath in the room with the marble counters and ultra-soft towels. As far as trips go? No complaints about this first one.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

All in the family

"Dating anyone?" Adam asked our guest as the team sat outside sipping drinks and nibbling on appetizers.

"Yes," Guest answered. "Someone in my group back home."

"Oh," Adam said, nodding. "So that's good and bad."

"It's a nightmare. We work all the time and count evenings at the office as time together. It's like no separation at all," he sighed, his accent making the words more dramatic.

I returned my attention to the glass in front of me, slipping the straw between my lips and swallowing the cool liquid. I can't say I was surprised - the team here is delightfully friendly. And, after defining myself as unreliable and alienating most of my peers in PostDocCity, I've been careful to show up when I say I will and always accept invitations for lunch or coffee or drinks after work. I like spending time with these people - they're funny and smart and interesting.

"So you know Theo?" One of the girls at lunch asked me. I nodded, recalling he'd been in senior management when I'd interviewed here years ago.

"I liked him," I noted. "I'm sad he left."

"It was a surprise to everyone - him included," noted Gillian. "But I invited him to join us." I blinked in surprise, grateful my reaction was hidden behind sunglasses. "I was one of the rumors about why he had to leave."

"Oh," I offered simply, trying to process the fact that someone very senior had been dating someone junior who had recently relocated.

"It's not true," she said and I nodded. I like Gillian - I'll happily work with her for years to come. "I only talked to Adam about jobs - not Theo. But he was part of why I came here."

"Oh," I repeated, offering a smile. Theo arrived and we chatted - it was all pleasant and mostly normal. I wondered when he got divorced, how he met Gillian, how long they'd been dating, who knew at work.

"Less than 10 seconds," a man at one end of the table corrected a woman who was presenting slides. She was married to him and they were running a business together. Huh, I thought - not something I would try.

I glanced around the table this evening, watching everyone laugh and talk and tease. Maybe this is completely normal, I wondered. Perhaps avoiding personal contact with my professional acquaintances left me with misconceptions about how one behaves with folks at work. I'm willing to flirt and flatter and tease - I find that makes for working relationships that are friendly as well as productive - but having sex with a superior seems a bit odd to me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Industry in Summary (so far)

Ruthless
"So," I concluded, finally resting my hands on the desk instead of flapping them as if I was being swarmed by a friendly yet flappy bunch of ladybugs, "I like her. I don't mind working with her, but there are some definite problems."

"I'll take care of it," Adam said after shaking his head at the person in question.

"I don't know that she'll share your view of the situation," I told him. When he raised an eyebrow at me behind the closed door of his office, I shrugged. "I just think it's going to be hard to convince her to back off."

"I don't have to convince her of anything," he explained, still looking surprised. "I'll tell her boss and he'll reign her in. I'm not talking to her at all."

"Oh," I replied, wishing for a moment that I was nicer and didn't find all this power so thrilling.

Manipulative
"Do you get the feeling my questions are annoying him?" I read the words written in the corner of her of notebook and nodded my honest response. But I leaned in to whisper that mine appeared to be bugging him too. One interesting facet of working for a Big Company is that I'm powerful by association. If you're trying to sell us something, it turns out that you have to win me over, at least for the purposes of the meeting today. But that appeared to get lost in translation somehow.

"Wait," I said later in the same meeting. "You're saying you have no interest in that area?" I clarified when he blew off one of my concerns. The leader of their group nodded and I watched the rest of his team look uncomfortable.

"Is that a problem, Katie?" Adam asked from his seat located a couple chairs away. I leaned back to meet his eyes, shrugged, then nodded. He nodded back and wrote something down. And attitudes toward me changed.

"Would you find value in adding this feature?" I asked after a moment and felt satisfied when heads bobbed across the table. Got it, I decided. Hold my line and recruit support. I can do that.

Redundant
"So you'll need to include this in your presentation," one woman said, trying to be encouraging.

"I think the presentation in question is already written. It predates me." I said, smiling.

"No," someone else agreed with her, not me. "But it should look like this."

So we discussed and reviewed and I thought, rather mildly, that I'd seen all these slides before. Then I went to a meeting this morning and saw some of them again. Then I went to another meeting to hear people reiterate what had been sent in email. For a place with signs all over speaking of efficiency and minimizing waste, there is a huge deal of effort duplicated (or triplicated or quadruplicated).

"Too many cooks," Adam sighed when I asked him about the presentation the women had discussed.

"It's sweet," I argued. "People are trying to help me."

"We'll have to beat some of that polite Midwestern attitude out of you," he teased. "It's a pain in the ass." And he's right - it is. But I'll figure it out.

Unimpressed
"Huh," one man replied when told how many papers were published from one spin-off company. "What about patents? Trade secrets?" And I smiled. I got email this morning that regretted to inform me that my paper was rejected. I stared at it for a moment, wondering at the sensation. I didn't feel like a failure! It was a bit disappointing, sure, and now I'll have to find another journal, but that world has limited power to hurt me now. It's like I've evolved beyond it! (Or escaped from it - semantics.)

I've traded publications and grants and tenure review for, well, this. Politics and meetings and evaluation rather than creation. And it's very different - I don't know that everyone would be happy here. But I'm nearly euphoric at times. Yes, it's overwhelming in certain moments. There are annoyances and frustrations and wastes of time.

But I feel like I'm starting to contribute. I'm asking good questions. I'm making sense of the business structure, meeting some great people. I'm working on interesting projects and learning a tremendous amount. It's exciting and fun and happy. (So far.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pretty Progress

"I'm sorry," I noted with a shake of my head. "I have another meeting that's in progress, so I'm afraid I have to go."

I used the same line three times and though I don't like it - it seems to indicate I think my presence is so important that it's required elsewhere at this very moment! - I only stopped because I came home for the day. It turns out that my calender is filling up rather rapidly. I'm on the phone or in meetings or doing training or talking to customers. I'm still useless, of course, but I have to be in different places while realizing I know very little of what I wish I did.

The consequence of these blocks of time that align neatly in Outlook is that I woke up this morning - as I have every morning since being here - and I got up. It was hard last Friday. I was exhausted and I wanted nothing more than to sleep. Only the memory of how it feels to screw up a job by being very unreliable propelled me out of bed and into clothes. But I rolled over this morning, saw it was 5:30, blinked at the sunlight sneaking between the curtains I'd forgotten to close, and rolled to my feet.

"Wow," I said as I shuffled across the room, having finished brushing my teeth and moving to check email. I didn't mind getting up! I was going to work to deal with my responsibilities and it didn't feel like torture! Hooray!

I joked with members of my team during the first meeting. There was lunch served at the gathering from 11-2, which was a really cool surprise. I even had questions to ask and opinions to offer in my final appointment. But I took my leave from that as well, coming back to the hotel to meet my massage therapist.

Having spent 90 minutes having my neck and shoulders done, I can say I'm sore. Therapeutic massage hurts, but I do feel a lot looser. And, as a side benefit, I feel ready to call it a day, sleep, and get ready to deal with tomorrow's list of tasks.

(There are interesting stories, but I've yet to figure out how to tell them. I'll work on it - I promise.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bloggy Bragging

"Excuse me," I said at the front desk, glancing around the lobby of my temporary home with a resigned sigh. "I'm Katie. I wondered if there was mail for me?"

It turned out that there was a stack of correspondence requiring my attention - my new ATM card, some junk mail that got forwarded, a deed packet from my relocation company and the textbook for which I contributed a chapter. I flipped to the pages that contained words I wrote, looked at the images I created that were tucked neatly amidst the words describing them and smiled.

"I'm familiar with your work," I told a visiting scientist today.

"Really? Well, I hope that's good," he replied, British and charming.

"It is," I smiled and spent part of my afternoon listening to his plans and problems and proposals. I wondered if I'd miss it - I keep waiting to mourn my research career, frankly - and I don't think I do. Maybe there are random moments, but then I think of papers or grants and shudder. But I am pleased with this chapter. And waiting for decision on two papers currently under review.

Then there's this pretty award Brigindo offered, which made me quite happy. It originates on the arte y pico blog, and I get to offer it to five blogs I think are pretty. (I think. I adore Brigindo and am flattered she likes the photos I'm often embarrassed to take - it's a bit odd to stop the car, get out and take a couple pictures - but I often screw up the rules of these memes.) When it comes to blogs that are beautiful though, I guess I don't know. I stick to feed readers lately becuase it's faster, so I had to stop to think about some of these.

  1. JustMe moved to Wordpress and the new site is lovely. Perhaps she could use an award to welcome her - and her always sincere posts - to a new home.
  2. Wayfarer Scientista writes beautifully and often includes pretty pictures. I sometimes giggle and often read sentences twice because I so enjoy her word choices.
  3. DayByDay is stunning. She has an adorable baby who remains in my prayers every night and is happily back at work. I can't even page through photos of her Wee One without getting all weepy - I'm in awe of how much that little girl is loved and appreciated, even as I think of my own nieces and very much I love them.
  4. TitleTroubles (my Favorite Friend) has populated my work computer with screen saver pictures via her flickr account. She's writes with great talent and humor and takes impressive pictures. And I miss her very much.
  5. Psych Post Doc is my last pick. From experience, I know it's a bit scary to share a job search with the world when a little scared that it might not end up how you want. Given that she's also leaving academic research, I'm looking forward to reading about it and am thrilled she found a job that has her excited about starting.
In other news, I think I'm getting settled here. I worked 9 hours today without being utterly miserable! I remembered where I put my car in the parking lot! I'm returning calls and feeling reasonably steady. For today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Amount Due

I left my parents' house feeling sad. Chienne was on her leash in the driveway, having made unsuccessful lunges to join me in the car. I blinked back tears as I waved and pulled up to the stop sign at the end of the road. I dabbed at the tears on my cheeks and turned left, the opposite direction from what was familiar.

Carrie, when she first moved into the house that she and Baldwin built, said she started volunteering. She was so awed by her good fortune that she didn't want the universe to look at her and realize that she was too happy. So perhaps by giving back to the community, the universe would look kindly on her and decide she was worthy of what she had.

I smiled when she told me this, adoring her and her quirks, and found myself frowning darkly after being pulled over for speeding on my trip back. Now, I freely admit I'm a notorious speeder. I don't like driving and going faster than is legal can cut hours of long trips. So I generally try to stay within a reasonable distance of the limit and watch out for people who might catch me. I was going neither and consequently was written a rather pricey ticket for my attempts to shave minutes off the remaining hour of my trip.

Fair enough, I decided, trying to be philosophical. I've long said I deserve to be fined for my bad habits. And balancing the hours saved in the 13+ years against 100+ dollars seemed a pretty reasonable price. But I still felt badly - it bothers me that I wasn't more careful. Now it's another thing I have to handle in these coming days.

I wonder if I've been too happy, I mused, wondering what volunteer programs I could contact straightaway. But last week didn't end particularly well. My house isn't selling - the neighborhood is just too iffy for most people to risk. Since I agree, it's hard for me to propose a solution. Arrest all children under 17? Implement gun control in a state where people are rabidly defending their right to tote weapons? I have another month in this hotel. It hurts me - I don't like it here and I want to move into my pretty house! I miss my dog.

"Hey, buddy," I said to Sprout when he made a graceful leap onto my bed last night. "How's it going?" I smiled when he rubbed his cheek against my palm. I smoothed his stripey coat, moving my hand over his head and down his spine while he cuddled and purred. "You're going to live with me again," I informed him. Blinking at me, he looked unconcerned but dubious. I miss him too.

This is home now. And it's good - I don't think I made a bad call. But I think I've been basking in the joy - taking comfort in it when I miss Friend or want to sleep on my soft blue sheets with all my snuggly pillows. I desperately want to sleep in, work from home, write and read and relax. Instead, I'm going to sleep early tonight. I have items on my schedule that require my attention.

After all, I need the salary. After all, it eventually costs money to drive too fast.

Technical Difficulties

I'm OK! I've been at my parents' house since Friday afternoon, but their internet access has been non-existent. In a moment where I'm connected to the outside world, I wanted to frantically wave hello. I'm returning to the hotel sometime this afternoon and will update with photos and stories very soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Big Date Post

I ran my hands over his shoulders, down his sides and continued until I was almost kneeling at his feet. I stood to smooth his hair, offered one last awkward pat on his back and turned to face the woman on the other side of the small foyer, barely resisting the urge to roll my eyes.

“No secret documents?” she asked me and I desperately wanted to ask her if they paid her enough to embarrass people in order to gain entry into the restaurant. Instead, I sighed and blushed while placing my own hands against the wall and letting Jon – whom I’d hugged for the first time not 30 minutes before – move his hands over me.

“OK, you’re clean,” the woman pronounced, taking the double agent theme a bit too far, and we proceeded into the restaurant through the bookcase that turned accommodatingly to let us slip inside. We reached the end of a hallway, but the wall soon opened to allow us entry into the place Jon had chosen for dinner. We talked conspiracy theories in the spy restaurant, among other varied topics, but I found the former rather fitting.

“So, wait…” I found myself saying often as I tried to wrap my mind around someone who thinks far outside the box that defines my world. “Really?” I offered a couple of times, feeling grateful he wasn’t offended by my honest, yet skeptical, response. I thought of my parents – my dad’s a big conspiracy theory fan himself and would have much to discuss with Jon – and how Dad passionately proclaims some theory true and valid and Mom rolls her eyes. I always grinned – until I lost patience with Dad’s style of argument, which is rather repetitive. Jon, however, seems very bright and is certainly articulate, so I enjoyed listening to him.

One funny thing I’ll remember from dinner though – he often prefaced a statement by saying, “You have to understand, Katie,” and every time he did it, my brain said, “Do not.” But, apart from the silent assertion of independence, I may have been a bit rough on him. I asked a lot of questions, demanded specific examples and requested elaboration on several points. I also talked a good deal, but I – as is my habit – told stories.

“I guess,” I said at one point – maybe it was when we talked last night on the phone, “I’m not so exotic. I like the mundane – going to work and coming home and worshipping at the same church each Sunday. I want to have friends and be close to family and do something valuable to my local community.” That leaves me with a more vague interest in solving the world’s mysteries – the very questions that seem to capture Jon’s attention.

I didn’t finish my drink, a sin the waiter scolded me for before going to fetch me a clean glass to take home as a souvenir. “I love my glass. Thank you.” I said, and I smiled across the table tucked into an intimate, little corner at my escort for the evening.

“Another mosquito bit me,” I offered when he asked what I thought, rubbing at the sting on my left arm with my right hand. We were at a beautiful spot, watching the moonlight glimmer on one of the many bodies of water around here, and I had been listening to him talk - romantic, thoughtful words - while standing at his side, watching the clouds in the foreground drift by the moon while those in the distance created a hazy glow around it.

“I’m sorry,” he said, moving back toward the car. “Kind of ruins the romantic mood.”

In truth, I think I was the problem. I had a rough day at work, finally hitting a wall of being overwhelmed with new information and feeling useless and slow. The girls on the team were wonderful, going outside with me for lunch and offering pep talks and relevant stories of their own. But I remained a bit down for the rest of the day. Then there was the home inspection, looking around this place that is beautiful and wonderful and that will someday be familiar, but is now just this one extra new thing I have to fit into my world. “No major issues,” the inspector pronounced, so the last major hurdle is cleared.

Jon and I, having been driven from the spot in the moonlight by the bugs, drove around a bit while I admired his sense of direction and knowledge of the city. We talked and laughed and our arms touched a few times.

“I wanted,” I confessed, “to be able to end the evening with the certainty that I could love you forever. But I’m overwhelmed today, Jon.”

“Did I say too much?” he asked, laughter in his voice and I relaxed with the relief of not offending him.

“No. It isn’t you. It’s just work and the house and being here and everything being new and different. It just seems like a lot today. So I can be your friend – I’d love to be your friend – but I just can’t tell what I want past that.” And it was true – my head was beginning to ache as my mind raced to try to answer the question he asked while we looked at the moon. Before he said I must be particularly sweet tonight to continue to get bitten by the bugs, I sighed and tried to figure out what I wanted and how I felt and where to go from here. It seemed too hard. “I’m sorry,” I concluded.

“Please don’t worry about it,” he said, confirming that we could definitely be friends and that he wouldn’t rush me. I nodded, hoping the situation would eventually stop being so blurry in my sleepy mind. I like him, but what if he starts telling our children all about conspiracy theories and they get made fun of in school? But he seemed to enjoy me and I was very comfortable with him and I very much enjoyed the evening.

We exchanged mutual thanks before heading our separate ways. I reached up to give him another hug and pressed a kiss to his cheek. He called before I got home to tell me he had a wonderful time. I shared the sentiment and soon pulled into a spot in a nearly full lot at my hotel.

I had a lovely time. I met a wonderful, interesting man who made me laugh and think and who took me to a place I never would have gone on my own. He reads my blog and noted that he picked a restaurant based on what might make a good story, which is terribly sweet that he took my odd little hobby into account. I thought he was charming and I’ll certainly see him again. As for the rest, well, I’d tell you if I knew. And assuming that eventually I will figure it out – you’ll likely read about it then.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jitters

"I know," Jane said sympathetically as I made a face at her. We were standing outside in the growing-miserably-hot morning and she held my camera while I fluffed my hair and squared my shoulders to have my picture taken.

"It's just awkward," I protested and she nodded again, but kept pronouncing me cute after each click of the button captured an image. "That's fine," I declared after three were taken. "I'll pick from those." But I knew it'd be a painful process. I look at photos of myself and see nothing but flaws. Yet I've watched people do the same of self-portraits with bemusement. That's how you look - the camera isn't doing anything evil to you. So people who are used to looking at me would say a photo is fine. I - who rarely look at myself - think it's filled with problems.

"Well," I later said philosophically as I snapped my cell phone closed, "that was hardly magical." I had answered Jon's first call while I was partially clothed in a Kohl's dressing room. "My meager wardrobe is feeling strained," I told him after I made my way to the car and called him back. As expected, I was a bit awkward and flustered - I do not do well on phone calls in general. So there was no sparkling wit or gentle charm or stunning brilliance from me. So I drove past my new house, letting the sight of it cheer me up, and proceeded back toward the hotel after a few minutes of staring at where I'll eventually live.

"Oops," I said mildly when I realized I wasn't going to be able to turn. I thought I should go left, but when I arrived at the corner, I realized I needed to head right. Being in the far left lane - and not wanting to spend the remainder of my afternoon in a firey car crash - I decided to go left. I fixed my mistake by turning into an old, tired shopping mall. I was driving through, curiously looking at the store fronts and signs when I saw a day spa - an Aveda day spa - and immediately found a place to leave my car while I pranced inside. I return for a pedicure in about an hour.

"Thirty minutes or an hour?" The receptionist asked of the duration of my treatment and I replied the latter sounded better. Perhaps if my feet are pretty, I'll derive some odd sense of confidence from that.

"Can I tell you something?" I asked Jon when we talked one last time on his way home from work. "I'm worried that you'll be disappointed."

"Don't be," he replied immediately in a voice I had instantly liked. I frowned when I realized he - chronically younger than me - seemed more confident and mature.

"No," I insisted, "but I am. I really don't want to disappoint you. I've met other people who read my blog and not all of them got what they expected."

"I'm not like other people," he offered and I agreed. I'm stuck with knowing he is unique and spectacular. And while I'm hopeful and it would be lovely if everything went well, I also know I've not been good at this in the past. Maybe I was trying with the wrong men - perhaps I was waiting for this one - or maybe I'm just doomed in romance.

But I remain more eager than nervous. I'm looking forward to meeting him regardless of the outcome. So instead of this crisis of confidence, I'm going to focus on pretty toes. And we'll see where it goes from there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

En Route

"That would be wonderful," I said to Jane when she invited me out for wine and cheese one night after work. She nodded as we both struggled to disassemble a piece of equipment. We were tucking styled hair behind our ears, teetering on heels and tugging at dress clothes while trying to remove screws, replace components and reassemble the device.

"So this date on Thursday," she said, pausing from trying to wiggle a piece of plastic back into place. "It's very romantic - he picked a good event for you two to attend. But take a sweater - it gets cool at night." I nodded, but ducked my head and focused on attaching two wires.

"What?" Jane asked a moment later when I continued to smile.

"It's nothing," I said, but glanced at her before shrugging. "Jon said he planned to wear a blazer and that I could borrow it if the weather got chilly." I paraphrased the comment he made, of course, but the response was gratifying.

"How great is he?" she said, nodding in approval.

"Very," I replied. "I'm obviously not sure where this will go, but he is really wonderful."

"I think," she predicted, "you're going somewhere good. The job, the house, the date - it's all indicative of you being happy here."

"I am happy here," I beamed at her and she returned my smile. I walked back to my desk and realized the headache I'd been ignoring had grown severe. When my focus slipped, I realized a migraine had set in, took care of the most urgent emails and returned to the hotel to drug myself. I remain a bit fuzzy behind painkillers, but I had another good - and busy - day.

Well on my way toward...something wonderful, I hope.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Accepted

"I have the counter-offer," Realtor told me this afternoon. "They did change the closing date to 10 days later - you did say you were fine with that, right?"

"Not excited, but, yes, fine," I replied, waiting with nervous tension to hear the rest.

"And they asked that earnest money be held in her attorney's trust," Realtor concluded.

"So they didn't ask for more money?" I confirmed and closed my eyes when she said they hadn't.

"I don't have a printer and fax accessible at the hotel," I told Realtor after the wave of gratitude and happiness passed. "Can you call and tell the owners I'll print and sign it first thing tomorrow?" She agreed and I paused for a moment, blinking back a few tears. I love that house - yes, it's kind of too big for me, but it's so pretty! And the bathrooms! And decks! I'm all but trembling with joy here!

I defined a term and explained its importance without glancing up from the protocol I was reviewing during a teleconference earlier in the day. I blinked at the chorus of sounds that indicated my fellow meeting-goers understood and looked around.

"Wait," I wanted to say as I began to smile widely. "Did I just help? Am I contributing? Yay for me!" I returned my attention to the document in front of me and added my signature to the appropriate line after neatly printing some notes in the margins. We made plans for a get-together next week and I basked in the warmth of belonging. I wasn't going to be left out - that happened often during my post-doc. Instead, people ask about my schedule before planning an outing. Others stop to talk in the hallways and are even approaching me in my office to introduce themselves and ask for my help. My calendar is filling up in a most satisfying way with meetings of people who need my opinion. I love it.

I had lunch with a colleague, perching on a chair at a tall table located just across the street from a pretty lake. I watched the water and nibbled on my portobello mushroom while we discussed the past and future and how to get from one to the other. I asked questions and took notes, but felt comfortable and knowledgeable about the topics at hand. I lifted my face to the sunshine a couple of times, feeling so spectacularly blessed that I couldn't articulate it if I tried.

"I have to find Katie," I heard Adam say at one point during the day. I was between meetings, seated at my desk, and glanced up to see him round the corner. "You're in the wrong spot," he said upon seeing me. Scooping up my nameplate, he called that I should follow him and I hurried to catch up. "You belong," he noted, placing my name in a different holder, "here. I don't know why anyone would have put you back there."

"I didn't mind it there," I said softly, all the while glancing around the larger office with room for a table and extra chairs. Adam shrugged and said I was to start moving stuff and live in the spot he indicated.

"OK," I said and began to move my meager set of belongings the several feet to my larger space. I thought the more important people sat in the larger spaces and I allowed myself a moment to feel rather special before rolling my eyes at delusions of grandeur. I mentioned to Karen that I'd need help deciding what to throw out and she immediately said I couldn't sit there.

"Excuse me?" I replied archly to the secretary, suddenly protective of my new, larger space. She proceeded to say I wasn't important enough. I glared and told her to talk to Adam. I also wrote an email describing the problem. Karen soon came to say that I was, in fact, moving and could she order me a flat screen monitor? Or new computer supplies? So apparently I am important, which is a bit weird, but I rather like it.

So I have a house, as of late next month. I have an office that's bright and cheerful. Both of them are bigger than I need, but I like having room to grow. And there are people here - Jon included, and he's another huge source of happiness all by himself - who seem to want to spend time with me. To hear what I think and show me new places and laugh when I say something charming. I giggled with one woman about her children, raised my eyebrows at another when she suggested I take ballet with her. (I agreed, by the way, but told her if she made me look uncoordinated and stupid, I was going to be mad.) Adam and I made notes on goals - all of which are exciting and challenging, and I have new email from Jon to read.

So? I'm still so happy! And beginning to think it might last - that tomorrow is something to anticipate rather than dread. It's lovely - a bit surprising, but completely lovely.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

[Insert Title here]

The phone call came too early, disturbing a sound sleep and dreams of love and romance so Dad could ask if I was awake yet. I mumbled something about having just woken up because I'd taken a little while to fall back asleep after Chienne's 4AM walk.

"That's not my problem," Dad said, and I frowned. He'd been grumpy the whole trip and I'd had enough. Mom took the phone to say she'd come get the dog, who was just poking her head out from under the covers and blinking sleepily at me, while I showered and dressed.

Once I was ready, we spent hours driving around the area, commenting on how pretty it is and how Little One would love this area and Smallest One would soon be big enough to enjoy that feature. It sounds as if Mom and Dad have heard my speeches about the potential lack of free time and plan to drive up to see me rather than the other way around. That's lovely since I'm rather enamored of the area around here too - I'd like to explore.

*****

After much deliberation, I've decided to call him Jon. It's obviously not easy for me to assign names to people who might become important characters on a blog. (Example - Friend.) But one of the people I'm very much hoping becomes a recurring character needed a name. We've continued to exchange wonderful emails and I grown more eager and less nervous about meeting him next week.

*****

I did make an offer on the house today. I offered less than the asking price, but Realtor feels pretty good about them accepting the offer as is. I hope they do. I would really love to live there. Mom, Dad, Chienne and I keep driving by and admiring the house last night and this morning. I would sigh with longing, reminding myself not to overpay for the property. The deadline is midnight tomorrow, so you'll know soon after I do, I'd guess. Unless I find out at work - then you'll have to wait for me to get home.

*****

If the sellers do accept the offer, I can borrow money from Industry (a percentage of the equity in my old home) to make the down payment. So that's great! But it's customary to wait 30 days before closing. That means another dog-less month (and I miss her so much!) in this hotel. I panicked for a moment just thinking of it, but reminded myself that saving some money and taking it moderately slowly was wise. But, as always, I'm ready now.

*****

I believe I'm going to read a book. I've grown quite efficient at reading blogs since I don't always have a lot of free time during the week, what with the romantic adventures and settling in. so I'm left with nothing on the computer to read for a moment, and lazing around amid pillows seems like a pleasant way to spend a Sunday evening.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The House (I hope)

"We love it," Mom said as she returned to where Chienne and I waited in the car.

"Really?" I asked, surprised. "I thought you'd hate it."

"Why?" she asked, using my tone of shock. "It's beautiful! That huge tub and all the living space. Your dad and I both liked it a lot."

"Crap," I said, walking in the front door. It's more than I wanted to pay, honestly, though right at the limit of what my mortgage guy told me to spend. I thought that if Mom and Dad said it was icky, I could remove it from my list and head toward one of the more sensible properties. Instead, I moved up the walk between the row of bushes and the front porch that stretched gracefully across the length of the structure. I entered the front door and glanced up at the two-story foyer and sighed.

To my left is an office and I could see shelves along the walls and a desk in the corner. My iMac could perch atop, looking simple and pretty, and I smiled at the thought of having all my novels displayed before moving into the living room. The main floor is set up in a circle, each room connecting to the next, though there is a hallway down the middle that contains a tiny half bath. But moving toward the back of the house, through the door in the would-be office, I entered the living room and glanced at the brick fireplace on my left. It's gas, I thought wistfully, picturing easy ignitions on lazy weekends or after work on a snowy evening. I moved through the room and toward the table that sat between kitchen and living room, basking in the sun pouring through the sliding doors.

I moved past it, nudging a chair in place as I unlocked and stepped through the back door. I walked out on a deck, stained a dark brown, and carefully moved my eyes over the yard.

"It's plenty big," Dad noted, joining me. "If you can fence it for Chienne, she'll have plenty of room to move around." I nodded, peering out toward the sidewalk over the corner lot and glancing at where I estimated the neighbor's property line would be. Glancing up, I saw the smaller deck off the the master suite, stained the same dark color and offering a better view of the pretty neighborhood. I walked back in, leaving the door open for Dad to follow, and moved into the kitchen. It's bright and sunny, though the only light comes through the glass doors, and opened the dishwasher to see dirty plates and silverware waiting for friends so they could get clean. Pushing it closed, I admired the fixtures on the cabinets - thin silver twists on bright white cabinets and moved across the ceramic tile, past one pantry, then the second one and peeked in the dining room.

"There are really nice touches," Realtor noted. And I nodded as I touched the chair rail and glanced up at the ceiling. The trim around the doors is dark brown and has tiny details - concentric circles - in each corner. I started to circle again, moving through the office and barely into the living room, and beginning to climb the steps that open to that end of the house. Reaching the top, I viewed the good-sized guest bedrooms and the full bath that served them in the hallway. I nodded with absent satisfaction as I viewed them, realizing I didn't have enough beds for two guest rooms anymore. And given that I'd put my office downstairs, the second floor would only house sleeping space. I walked into the master bedroom and sighed, for it's lovely. Sliding doors open onto a deck, leaving the large bed and matching furniture well lit and looking right in the spacious room.

But then there's the bathroom. A window in the shape of a hexagon sits above a whirlpool tub easily big enough for two. The very thought of soaking in bubbling water scented with a bath orb made me whimper with longing. I traced the edges of the white surface, too much in love to even count the holes that would make the water massage my sore muscles. I glanced across the room at the large vanity and single sink - frowning at the thought that I would have put two in - then pulled aside the frosted glass to peer in the shower and moving through one more door to see the toilet and linen closet.

"I could just live in here," I sighed, standing for another moment in the beautiful bathroom. But I moved back toward the stairs, heading down to the living room and smiling fondly at the fireplace before moving down a second set of steps into the finished basement. There are windows to let in light for the rec and storage rooms. The washer and dryer are down there as is more living space I've no idea how to use. There is, I thought, enough room in here for another person. And I smiled, wondering if he's ever share the space.

"Are there any that we've seen that are better than your current property?" Realtor asked when we finished.

"My favorite is," I told her and took a breath before announcing that I wanted it. My parents nodded in agreement and I told Realtor to try to talk the owners down on price. We haven't decided on an initial offer yet, but I'm hoping it feels as right as the house does. But, for today, there's a precious puppy in my hotel room with me and my parents are located just down the hall. It was nice to spend the day with people who love me and I'm looking forward to tomorrow as well.

I hope said dog moves into the beautiful house even though she's returning home with my parents tomorrow. But I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Crossing your fingers for me would be very appreciated. (Oh, and dear Chienne looks goofy in the photo because she's woofing at me - she wanted cuddles more than photos.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Heart Industry: Week 1 Recap

"It's going to be an adjustment!" Many people told me gleefully. "No more sleeping in or taking naps or working from home! It's 8-5 for you from now on, so enjoy the money because you're going to have to earn it!"

I did worry, frankly. My penchant for keeping flexible hours and having periods of high productivity followed by days of rest has been long-standing and much enjoyed. But when I left early the other day, Adam responded that it was no problem. So, today, I just asked one of the women in my group how it worked.

"People arrive between 8 and 10, I'd say," she replied. "Leave around 5 most of the time. But we don't work 40 hours. After things pick up, you'll be here longer and take work home."

"Are we allowed to work from home?" I asked, heart fluttering with hope.

"Of course," she replied. "If we have a lot of writing to do, you'll often see emails come in that somebody is going to be home for the day and only available via email and cell phone. It's very normal."

"So it's not a strict schedule?" I confirmed hopefully and she shook her head firmly.

"It's very deadline driven though," she warned. "So you'll run into problems if you can't get projects done on time. Otherwise," she shrugged, "work how you work, be open to suggestions and you'll be fine."

I love it here.

In terms of other first impressions, since I'm apparently alone in enjoying personal drama from some bloggers and you people actually like me when I'm content, there is a definite hierarchy. And degrees mean very, very little. In fact, nobody's asked at all about my education so my typical conversational openings of 'where'd you study?' or 'who'd you work for?' are inappropriate and haven't been used. Instead, it's very profit driven and deferring to the leadership is what we do. Which, honestly, is fine with me.

I guess I always struggled with the subjectivity of academic research. If two or three people don't like your paper, no publication for you. If five or six people can't agree you're done, you don't get a degree. Funding agencies are playing different games because they're under tight budgets and it's always seemed a little opaque and scary to me.

Here, in contrast to my post-doc, I walked in with the blessing of the Important Ones. We've either met or had a phone conversation and they're warm, but quick - Important Ones are Busy! - with their greetings. This environment, for some reason, is also much easier for me to read. I can see the power structure very clearly and I find that, perhaps naively so, comforting.

The diversity within the pool of talent is staggering. I hear multiple languages every day as conversations go on outside my office. Even the different artwork and pieces of clothing reflect tastes from many, many countries. Yet there is at least a superficial willingness to all work together. Even if the goal is profit, it's one we share and so you don't find people chasing first authorships as much as good performance reviews. And how you play with others is part of that so the people who grow important tend to be good at it.

People wear jeans and t-shirts. Others wear suits and ties and beautiful shoes. I will confess that I found a memo when I was cleaning out my desk. The previous occupant apparently favored rather loud shirts and was asked to tone it down a bit when customers were around. I made a note to check my wardrobe, realized I don't own anything wild and crazy and nodded happily. I rather like dressing up for work, though I am running out of variety pretty quickly. But that's working out beautifully too.

We're much less independent than academics though. It doesn't bother me in the least, but that set of warnings does seem to hold true, at least in my initial impression. I suppose I'd argue that scientists outside industry are lately being forced to work on fundable problems. But given that you're able to devise one of those, you're good to go. I've been a student and postdoctoral trainee though - I worked on what I was told anyway. It seems better to get a cool title and lots more money to do it.

A job decision a personal choice, obviously - we're all trying to work on something we love. An endeavor we see as worthwhile and valuable. I wanted to spend my days with people I considered bright, funny and kind. I wanted to earn a salary that afforded me a house and new car with enough left over to be comfortable. I was excited about the ability to travel without having to fill out forms and check grant statuses. I'm kind of giddy over the idea of a corporate credit card. I'm also put in the position of always learning, which is so utterly cool I sometimes have to just think about how blessed I am. I'm supposed to collect information from all these different sources, keep up with new developments, put that information together in a way that makes sense for my particular division.

The mentoring component of academic research always gave me pause. Perhaps it's because I struggled so much - I really don't know how I'd tell students to tackle grad school or research. Balancing classes with time in the lab is tough. Feeling inadequate and awful - the crises of confidence - are painful and I hate them, but I never did figure out an avoidance strategy. I went through several periods of depression - I got little done, cried a lot and stopped answering calls and emails. Hell, I did the same thing in my post-doc. So the thought of being responsible for someone while he/she was going through that always worried me. I tend to be better at nurturing than pushing and that's not always the best way to motivate people.

While I'm sure there will be bad days, I feel lucky - hugely and profoundly blessed - that I'm here. And that I like it. I was worried, of course. I am Katie. But it's even better than I expected. So fear not what ye do not know! Industry is rather awesome so far.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Put on a happy face!

I smiled when I finally had a chance to check site stats. My numbers have seen a rather dramatic increase - the type of which usually happens when I'm doing particularly badly and am writing angry or depressed posts. I could imagine a couple anonymous readers rubbing their hands together in anticipated glee - 'Katie is happy,' they might think, 'and after this lasts a little while, they'll be a crash and she'll self-destruct and then the blog will get interesting!' Perhaps I underestimate some of you - and I don't doubt your sincerity if you've sent email or comments. In fact, I'm grateful - reading them has felt like a familiar and wonderful reminder of what's long been comforting in my life. But I have read a couple blogs - just sometimes! - because I feel like disaster is waiting and it makes me feel better about myself to know that other people sometimes fail spectacularly too. (I'm awful. I know. I'm sorry.) And I do like watching the recovery too - there's just something compelling about watching people being challenged. (Despite the excuse, I'm still awful. I know. I'm sorry.)

I'll admit to wondering when this is all going to end too, honestly. Perhaps work will grow impossibly hard and the friendly people will hate me for my ineptitude. Perhaps this invitation for next week that's surrounded with a glow of hope and happiness will be terrible and uncomfortable or he'll decide he doesn't like me after all. Maybe my house in the south won't sell and I'll be over-extended and resent the home I buy here. My car might break or I could fall down and hurt myself or something else that's terrible and horrible could happen. And my pretty, sparkling life could shatter into sharp pieces that pierce me as they fall.

I don't think it will happen. There may be glitches, but I think various situations look positive and promising and so I continue to be happy. I wake in the morning and say a prayer and keep an eye on the clock as I read email and blogs. I go to work and, yes, get a little bored, but I like the people and think the job is going to be fantastic. My parents arrive this weekend and I think there are affordable houses I could adore. I have a date next week (!!) and I'm enjoying the feeling of writing to someone who likes me. I really like him. And so I'm happy.

So it continues to be bright blue skies with happy, fluffy clouds around here. But I don't blame you if you're waiting for the storm - angry/sad/dramatic Katie is fun to read, but less fun to be. But I have plans with new friends for lunch tomorrow! I'm likely to buy a house this weekend! Laundry is only $1/load when I expected it to be $1.25! I turned in expense reports for moving today and beamed at the amount that will be reimbursed! Adam replied that it was no problem to take a few hours off here and there to get settled! It's all good. And - though it sounds a little crazy - I'm hopeful that it's going to get even better.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Third day's the charm.

“No worries,” I told Adam when he apologized for not having more time to spend with me this week. “I’m keeping busy enough – meeting people, doing training, reading documentation – so we can touch base on Monday and devise a better plan.” And, honestly, it’s going quite well.

“Your outfit is pretty,” a young woman said as we passed in the hall. I was frowning down at my laptop, as determined to connect to a printer as it was stubbornly thwarting my request. I glanced up at her and belatedly smiled, thanking her. I frowned after she passed, reminding myself that I didn’t want to be oblivious to people anymore. Head up, eyes alert and lips ready to curve and accept invitations to lunch or the movies or wherever. It’s time to make friends, I decided, wondering if I could chase down the person who liked my green pants and brown sweater. Maybe we could be buddies.

“I’d love to go,” I replied to an earlier invitation made by a woman who works down the hall from my office. Bailey (for that's what we'll call her) mentioned that she and Vic – the one she was currently introducing to me – were going next week.

“He doesn’t hug new people right away,” she said of the man we’d gone to meet as we prepared to leave. He’d embraced her warmly and kissed her on the cheek when we arrived and I thought it lovely. She’s a warm, bubbly person and he seemed equally demonstrative. “He’ll hug you next time,” she promised me with a smile, but he stood up and motioned me closer.

“You don’t have to,” I demurred even as I reached up to tuck my arms behind his back. He held on for a moment – longer than most hugs I’ve had with colleagues - and I had time to feel warmed by the sign of affection. “Thank you,” I said after he released me and smoothed my sweater, charmed by the gesture and feeling quite affectionate toward both of them.

“We’re Latin,” my friend explained. “We’re touchy like that.”

“I’m Midwestern,” I told her, my accent much less exotic and lovely. “But I rather liked it.” It wasn’t smarmy or uncomfortable, I decided. Instead it felt natural and sincere and I envied their culture for a moment. I decided we were going to be friends. And if doing that means I have to suffer and cringe through the Batman sequel, so be it.

I decided to leave a bit early today, tiring of the monotony of online forms and training. I accomplished a lot, I decided at 3:00. So I took my leave and went to the bank to deposit my travel reimbursement from Former Institution. I felt guilty while leaving the financial institution though and called Adam on my cell phone.

“Hi,” I said to his voicemail. “This is Katie. Remember when you asked if I had personal matters to handle? And I said no? Well, I thought of several things I could do this afternoon and left the office a bit early. And since you weren’t there to ask, I decided I should at least let you know. That way you can scold me later if this was inappropriate. But hopefully it’s OK. So, um, I’ll talk to you later – call my cell phone if you need me, please.” Then I did a little shopping, stopped for a burrito (cilantro, how I love thee) and made some phone calls on my way home. I arrived at the hotel before 4 and sighed, wondering if I should nap or work or go out and do something with my free time.

Not having an alternate plan, I sat in the recliner in the corner of my room and let my toes wiggle in the sunshine coming in the window. Then I read an email and smiled with pure delighted surprise. I was given directions to a note and though I didn’t have to find it immediately, I debated for mere moments before throwing camera and keys in my purse and heading out the door. I called my parents while I drove and caught them up on happenings at work. I left out the part where I was on my way, directions written on an envelope tucked in my purse, to find words that someone had written for me. (I'm struggling to name him - this happens when people might grow important and explains how Friend ended up being called Friend.)

The note and directions to it? It's the most romantic thing that’s ever happened to me. And it was really perfect – I was awarded a view of the skyline when I got lost, and spent a moment thinking the buildings rather impressive and stately, standing there together. Then I arrived at a beautiful building and moved through the heavy doors, past the front entrance, and slowly climbed some steps. Consulting my directions once more, I felt my stomach flutter when I reached for the hiding place, flipped to the appropriate page and withdrew a small sheet of white paper. The words, written in red ink, invited me to meet him next week.

I withdrew the small note I’d composed at the hotel and pawed through my purse until I found a pencil. Under what I’d written before, I accepted said invitation without even considering the alternative, placed the note I retrieved carefully inside the envelope on which the directions were scrawled and tucked it back in my bag. I made my way back down the stairs and through the ornate lobby and out to my car, smiling the whole way and snapping a couple of pictures.

I feared that the photo project would quickly grow boring. But since I’m cheating already with the + or -, I’ll simply save some that I took this evening – glowing with excitement and hope on my quest – and use them later.

This is going very well so far. We’re still at early stages, of course, but I’m happy. And that seems good.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mine. Maybe.

“Step out in the hall and look at the girl by the window,” Karen, my new admin, told me as we stood in my office. I sent her a curious look, but she waved me out of my workspace. I went, trying to appear as casual as possible, and glanced at the young woman located several feet away. I smiled at her when she glanced at me and she offered a brief expression of friendliness in return.

I raised my eyebrows, making my inquisitive face after she turned away, and returned to Karen.

“She interviewed for your job,” I was told and my stomach suddenly cramped.

“Really?” I asked, suddenly feeling ridiculously threatened. But, I wanted to say, I would have had nothing if this hadn’t worked out. Maybe Drug Company wouldn’t have been so interested had I not had Industry job. I wouldn’t be here looking at houses, living in this hotel room, trying to figure out this position.

I looked around the still-blank walls of my office, realizing for a moment that I was here and the job I’d worked so hard and long to acquire was finally mine. The rush of emotion wasn’t unexpected, and mixed with the possessiveness and relief was a nervous tension that this was going to be different than what I’d done before. There are certainly shared skills and I’m not completely lost and confused, but I acknowledged a learning curve and the challenge this work will present. But I read documentation and wandered out of my office to meet new people when I heard voices I couldn’t recognize.

“I’m at a stopping point on my training screens,” I told Karen as it was almost (but not quite) 5:00. I paused in front of her desk, sleek black bag tucked under my arm and pretty print skirt tickling the backs of my knees. She nodded and smiled, thanking me for buying her lunch.

“So are you dating anyone?” I asked the older woman as we returned from the restaurant earlier in the day. She had mentioned she was looking for a change – a new job and new man and new house. She responded to my question, saying she wasn’t – everyone seemed to be mean or married or mediocre.

“That does happen,” I noted, thinking of years I’ve spent single. I felt hugely blessed for a moment when I thought that I'm making some progress on those three things myself. I was offered this job, though I hope that woman who was standing down the hall is happy in whatever role she holds. I’m likely to purchase a house this weekend and I’ll get to flutter around happily – unpacking and decorating, painting and looking at my pretty nest.

As for love? As rain soaked the city last night, thunder rattling my small window and making the television flicker instead of glow, I wrote an email in reply to one I received earlier.

“I really like someone,” I told Karen when she asked if I was dating, “but I’m not finding the outcome predictable right now.”

I’m torn, honestly. There’s part of me – a sweet, silly part perhaps – that flutters in utter happiness over him. It’s such a good story! I arrived in town, answered a personals ad and met this wonderful man. And we may meet and he may like me! And how impossibly lovely would that be?

But. I’ve been heartbroken by some and disappointed others by my lack of interest. It seems so unlikely to find someone by chance and grow so fond of him so quickly. I don’t want to get too hopeful – I really don’t embrace the thought of being hurt again. But being safe doesn’t really appeal when there’s a chance – even one that may be tiny – of being blissfully happy.

I am, in case it’s not clear, a bit unsettled. It’s good – rather exciting and intense – but it is exhausting. But I sleep and wake up one day closer to a new house, with work to do and, thus far, with wonderful email to read.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Day One

I used to be careful. I’d change details, use pseudonyms for everyone and delay posts for days. At some point, I stopped worrying. I checked blog email at work and even wrote a post or two from campus. I wrote things that were less than wise and played fast and loose with any attempts at real privacy. If you’ve read for long, you likely know what I study. And where my parents live. And therefore the jump to my general city and current employer wouldn’t be far behind. And, even though it’s only been one day, I rather like this job. I don’t want to lose it because I wrote too much on my blog.

So I’m going to try to go slowly here – test the waters, figure things out. I won’t write bloggy email or drafts of posts on my work computer. I don’t even know how I’m going to tell stories yet. But I do have a few notes as I remain a little boring here for the next few days while I’m thinking of how to do this.

First, I decided before I was offered this job that I’d start taking photos when I started my new job and would continue to do so for a year. Project 365 is the inspiration, of course, but I’m beginning on July 7 instead of January 1. Since I’m breaking rules, I decided to give myself a bit of a break. I will therefore do Project 355 ± 10. That gives me 20 days to miss, though I hope not to utilize all of them.

Everyone was very friendly. They introduced themselves at the start of a meeting, each of them looking at me to recite name and title. When I later met some of them individually, they reminded me of names and welcomed me with the polite warmth of the midwest. It’s less effusive than what I knew in the south, but I like the more restrained manners here. People called me by name rather than honey or dear. But that’s fine – I answer to Katie quite easily.

Oh, and there is a serious hierarchical structure. While we all use first names, people are very deferential to those who are Very Important. There was one man in a meeting who was Most Important. A single glance from him quieted whispered conversations. A mere wave of his hand would speed someone’s explanation or question. It was awesome – completely fun to watch, especially after working for Boss, the man who wouldn’t scare a fly.

I had a brief orientation meeting and I will share one question that was asked. “You know where it says I should go to www.website.com?” one girl asked and our HR person nodded. “How do I get there online?” I blinked at her, looked down at the paper in my lap and turned my head to blink at her again. I think I shook my head in disbelief when the HR person told her to simply open a browser and type in the address. I shouldn’t be mean – I think it’s good and smart to ask questions when you don’t understand something. And perhaps she was overwhelmed with introductions and instructions on her first day. But, really? That’s the question you want to ask in front of a bunch of people you might see every day at work? Wow.

I suddenly realized, bringing my attention to the meeting going on and away from the trees outside the window earlier this afternoon, that I wasn’t home. Meetings are funny – long tables arranged in U shapes, chairs strewn about. Windows that open to nondescript views hid the fact that I’m somewhere new. There was a moment – a rather excruciating one – where I panicked. I missed Friend and my house and my dog! I wanted cheese biscuits or waffles or sweet tea! But I settled in again, reminded myself to breathe and focused on the topic at hand.

I’m going to learn a tremendous amount here. And I think I’ll enjoy doing it.

Three groups toured my house this weekend. Realtor (Selling) is going to ask for feedback today. I’ll let you know what I hear, but I’m actually thrilled people are looking. That means it’s priced in an attractive range, which was the goal. And not everyone is afraid of my old neighborhood! Hooray!

Chienne is with my parents and, according to Mom, very sad. “She watches for you,” she told me, which made me feel terribly guilty. But the three of them – Mom, Dad and the dog – will arrive on Saturday. We’ll likely make an offer on a house then. I want a house and since I'm trying to sell my old one, I should try to acquire one here.

For now, I’ve taken off my dress clothes and snuggled into pajamas. I’ll be wearing business casual for the most part – basically what I wore for my post-doc, so that's comfortable and normal. I pulled my hair back – it stayed in pretty curls all day, making me quite proud – and caught up on email. I’m yawning and stuffy, but underneath the sleepiness and mild cold, I think I’m happy.

So day one was good. I have high hopes for day two.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Tale of the Wireless Mouse

There was a blinking, red glow from within the box as I separated the cardboard flaps.

“Really?” I asked the contents before viewing them carefully. “I’ve already cracked the make-up mirror. What else have I broken?” But I felt a rush of sympathy for my wireless mouse as it sent blinking signals with a tireless intensity. I held the object in my palm, stupidly trying to soothe it, I think, and it continued to pulse with light.

“I’ll find it,” I promised of its partner, digging through the box with one hand and unearthing the component that attaches to the computer, relaying the mouse’s signals to my iMac. I quickly found a USB port and pushed the black cord in place. Quickly moving the mouse directly in front of the sensor, I was relieved to see the red light finally cease its flashing. I smiled, thinking they must be happy to be reunited, then paused to shake my head at myself. “Lay off cold medicine in attempt to retain sanity,” I advised myself out loud, but soon shrugged off my affection and concern for inanimate objects.

“What to do?” I murmured later last night, having unpacked the bathroom and rifled through the clothing that hangs on the bar in the corner. It’s a bit disconcerting to look up and see all my outfits, but apparently doors are superfluous. I’ve consequently taken to smiling over dresses and skirts and matching shirts to pants. I just arranged shoes under the outfits this morning – I limited myself to 14 pairs, most of them flip flops in various colors. But, feeling lonely and a bit sad, I wanted to stay busy rather than dwell upon the fact that I’m likely to spend a good deal of time alone in the next weeks.

I gathered the mail that remained unopened in my laptop bag and settled in the recliner on one side of the room. A devoted Firefox user, I opened Safari only to deal with banking. Once I did some mental calculations and was satisfied with the results, I sighed. I used to keep some bookmarks in Safari, but I didn’t transfer them when I upgraded to Leopard. So I sighed again, with greater feeling this time, and clicked on the ‘popular’ heading that apparently comes along with the program. Perhaps if other people liked the links, I reasoned, I would enjoy them as well.

I wrinkled my nose over ordering books and was similarly put off by online auctions. I don’t need more stuff, I decided, though I immediately contradicted that thought with a craving for more pillows for the bed. And a soft blanket. Maybe a candle or two. But I wanted them now, not delivered in several days, so I decided I’d shop in person later. Skimming to the end of the list, I grinned when deciding to read personals online. That might be fun, I nodded decisively, waiting for the page to load so I could find a city nearby. I soon found my nose wrinkled and brows lowered as I stared at the screen.

“What’d he say?” I recall asking Rachel in college. We’d had crushes on the hockey boys who played in town and after they departed, Rachel corresponded with one of them.

“He closed his email funny,” she reported to Elle and me. I remember Elle going to look at the monitor while I defended his choice. “Ciao” was an acceptable word. Perhaps he was trying to be sophisticated.

“As in Puppy,” Elle explained after she shook her head at the email. I cocked my head in confusion and Rachel elaborated.

“Chow,” she said and spelled it.

“As in Puppy Chow,” I breathed, looking at Elle and choking on laughter. “Well,” I mused, searching for an excuse even as I giggled. “Maybe he was trying to be funny. It is rather amusing.”

But as I clicked and read, I found myself shaking my head in dismay. Let’s have sex immediately if not sooner, demanded one. I want babies right away, noted the next. I have money – if you like me, you may use some of it. I WRITE IN ALL CAPS. i dont punctuate at all no shift key for me.

“Well,” I said, trying to align my plans with being single forever, “at least they’re trying.” And I admire that, even as I scowl over grammar or sentence structure or spelling. It’s like the wireless mouse, searching eagerly for its mate, flashing and blinking its little red lights and hoping that the outgoing signal gets returned in some way. Then all is wonderful and red lights can stop flashing and you can just go about your business, clicking and scrolling and knowing your partner watches and cares about your actions and feelings.

I cast a mildly envious glance toward the computer set up across the room, mouse happily settled next to its sensor, and began to page quickly down the page of personals to see if there anything I wanted to read before calling myself a spinster and making this official. I think my battery might be low, I decided with another glance at the mouse. I’m tired of sending out signals that don’t get returned. I’m weary of wanting something that I can’t seem to attain. My red light dims with time and the flashes grow infrequent. I was trying to decide whether I want to get a bunch of cats or a pack of dogs (I’m going to be a spinster with animals, I guess) when one subject line caught my attention.

“How lovely,” I said after clicking once more. I read through entire paragraphs written without error and incorporating excellent words. I smiled. Thoughts that had pinged busily between homesickness and shopping lists and housing choices and driving directions slowed and allowed for my attention to focus on the page of text. There is someone near here, I decided with a great deal of relief and pleasure, who is articulate and romantic. And if there’s one, there might be others. One of them, should the quantity of good men be high enough to allow for proper probabilities, may grow to like me eventually.

So I wrote, impulsively sending an email from my blog account, and complimented him. And, when I returned from my shower and curled back in the chair, I fluttered hopefully when I saw he’d replied. So my first evening in this new place contained words and thoughts of the future in addition to those that tug at my attention from the past.

“You sound like you’re doing better,” Mom said when we talked after I looked at houses and stopped at Target for more pillows and a soft blanket.

“I feel good,” I told her, “apart from this cold. I’m actually eager to start work tomorrow and there are all sorts of gigantic houses I could definitely love. I think this is going to work out just fine.” And as for finding someone to love? Well, I’m hopeful but realistic. But it was absolutely lovely to flutter for an evening.