Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Dad Visiteth

After Little One slammed the door and was lectured for her behavior but before the sixth time Dad said “I wish I was going home with Katie,” I told Mom I’d take him. She needed a break – time to decompress and sit in silence rather than being subjected to a constant stream of information – helpful comments, mean remarks, random tidbits from television and commentary on what you’re doing right or wrong with the girls.

So when Mom started lecture Dad for how he lectured Little One, I raised my voice and asked him to pack a bag. “You can help me with my driveway and we’ll take down my Christmas decorations. And it’ll give everyone a little change of scenery for a few days.” He went down the hall immediately, busily tucking clothes and medicines into his suitcase and hunting for the toiletry bag they always bring.

Having already packed the Jeep, I took the last armful of gifts – 5 gorgeous suits Mom bought for when I need to be business rather than business casual – to the garage and rearranged some of my items to make room for my father. Then I held Smallest One on my lap and played the Dora video game I bought for her older sister while said sister played with Mom in the living room.

Smallest One held up her little arms when Dad was finally ready, lips formed into an insistent pout, and demanded to come ("I go!" she says and it almost hurts it's so cute.) with us as we prepared to depart. “Not this time,” I whispered, feeling miserably guilty and ready to scoop her up and find room for a car seat next to Chienne in the back. Dad waved from the passenger seat, buckling in and gearing up for several hours of driving tips.

We arrived home to shovel and blow snow from my driveway – I appreciated (and needed) the help. Mom plans to drive up to fetch him – and spend time with me – tomorrow or Thursday. I’m doing exactly what I’d otherwise planned. I went in early today and worked on large projects (the poor ones in the “important but not urgent” category that always get shoved back “a week”) while remaining mostly undisturbed. I left a bit early, having worked a measly 8 hours.

I returned from work this afternoon to find coat hooks on the wall and three of my four toilets scrubbed clean. “Thanks,” I chirped, not feeling the need to point out that I’d scurried around to clean and change bedding and make dinner the night before. Instead, I dug through the plethora of food Mom sent with us and called out a list of options before deciding on chicken and pasta, making a mental list of soup ingredients I should collect after work tomorrow.

It’s very easy here. Having been surrounded by family – the noise and happiness and intense love of children – I’m always a little relieved to return to my quiet little life. It’s now tempered with worry over Little and Smallest – I wonder if they’re happy or sad, worried or settled. I want to be more involved. But it’s so hard for me to control – there’s no work-like ease of people having to heed my suggestions or follow my carefully drafted schedule. It’s therefore troublesome to reconcile the love I have with a sense that I’m still not ready for children.

Luckily, I’m sleepy enough not to fret too much right now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

When Email Slows

There is a luxurious lack of incoming communication in the professional sense, allowing me to direct attention to long-neglected projects and documents. I sometimes think longingly of home - how I could sleep late and nap often, simmer soups and do some writing.

I am instead at my parents' cozy place in Illinois. It's been wonderfully quiet and amusingly chaotic by turn. I slept until 6:30 this morning, a very respectable hour, and crept down the hallway to peek in on Smallest One before continuing to the living room where Mom was slumped on a corner of the couch with Little One curled on her lap, staring at the lights of the tree.

Yet for many of the cuddles and giggles, there were unpleasant scoldings when the sisters argued or torturing small children with doses of antibiotics. I felt all warm and fuzzy with my parents on Christmas Eve - standing between them in a pew near the back as we recited the Lord's Prayer together and later sang Silent Night with lit candles held in our hands. Yet today I threw up my hands at both of them - Dad lecturing ad nauseum when Little One sassed him with an admittedly-rude "blah, blah, blah." Mom reacts with a stunning lack of consistency when it comes to issues with Brother. "I can't help you," I finally said, throwing up my hands, "because I don't know what you want!"

Chienne braved the weather - first massive amounts of rain and now an unexpected amount of snow - to potty outside, going so far as to run away while we sold and moved my childhood piano. But she blew it by peeing downstairs, leaving us to find the mess while we were attempting to install the gas fireplace. Sprout has been more predictable - when it's quiet and child-free, he's a frequent visitor. But when Little and Smallest Ones are here, he huddles in his basement, poking his stripey head around the corner only to race away from them.

I spent time with the puppies (!!!) who are a bit larger but equally adorable in Aunt and Uncle's garage. We kissed and cuddled after the debacle (which I'm unlikely to finish) and I calmed as the three dogs pressed against me and licked my chin. Cousin, et al., came out to see us - Little Cousin enjoys playing with Little One (a happy surprise) so they arranged another date at my parents' house yesterday. I sat with Cousin at the kitchen table, discussing how many hours we worked as we nibbled mints and monkey bread and watched Aunt sew together a plush rabbit.

"Mom?" I finally said, "Maybe we could buy animals that are pre-fabricated rather than these that we have to build ourselves?"

"I'm out of thread," she muttered, giving me a dark look. "I can't finish Smallest One's dog."

Cousin and I continued to talk - she saying I was actually lucky to not deal with the guilt of neglecting a husband and child while managing professional responsibilities; I saying I thought not having direct reports helped a good deal - while we were handed the animals and bags of stuffing from our respective moms.

"This is just wrong," she decided, continuing to shove the white filling through the hole between the rabbit's legs. Looking up from an identical project with a spotted dog, I nodded before taking a sip of water and jabbing stuffing into the arms.

"Grandma?" Smallest One asked this morning, and I felt proud that I was learning enough of her words and speech patterns to communicate reasonably effectively.

"She went outside, love," I replied. "To help Grandpa with the snow."

"I help!" she cried, going to fetch her winter wear and returning to me with tiny arms full.

"OK," I smiled and she bounced in front of me. "Let's find your boots."

"You help?" she asked curiously as I helped her in boots and sweatshirt, coat and gloves and hat.

"I think they're good," I answered. "Other arm in," I coaxed as she talked about how it was snowing and she'd help and could she go yet?

Their mother came for them this morning, resulting in another round of bundling up and hugs and kisses.

"Love you bye." Smallest One says - no pause between any words - before leaving. We repeat the sentiment and wave at the window before collapsing and wondering if we can find snacks and sleep before they return.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Part 1

I love the Ones very much. So it was with a sense of excitement that I woke early this morning, loaded the last of the gifts and my overnight bag in the Jeep, settled Chienne in the passenger seat with her blanket and set off through the miserable weather toward my parents' house. I called when I was about 10 minutes away so I arrived to an open garage, Dad waiting at the door and 3 faces at the window surrounded by waving hands.

Little One helped unload the toys, immediately plucking her pink Webkinz from her basket of gifts while Smallest One struggled into her shoes and coat, coughing all the while. I leaned down to scoop her up, finding a tissue in my pocket to wipe her nose before giving hugs and kisses and wondering how sick I'd be after this virus had a chance to incubate a bit. Shrugging it off, I set her back on the floor and let her cuddle the giant SpongeBob pillow that had settled in her box of presents.

We played and talked and, as 4PM neared, I helped Mom with a few of the items we were taking to Aunt's that evening. Chronically early as we are, we were bundled up and had the van loaded with presents, food and people and were heading to Brother's house just after 4 to pick him up for our "Christmas Eve" at Aunt's.

"I don't want to come in," Mom said when she called him. "The girls are sick, it's cold and rainy and we hoped you'd be ready early." She attempted to argue some more but finally tossed the phone to me where I perched in the last row of van seats. "He's very angry - I don't want to talk to him again."

I raised an eyebrow, sighing impatiently since we'd had to wait for his girlfriend to get off work and forced this event later in the day when the girls would have done better with an afternoon excursion. But Brother and I are both selfish people so I tried to take it in stride. I failed, however, when he called back and said 'fuck' more times than I could count in a 90% irrational tirade about how, by arriving 15 minutes earlier than the designated time, we had turned his children against him and Ruined Everything. "It's all a competition!" he raged, leaving me to blink in response. "And they only want to win. They're always beating me. I always lose." Frowning while he muttered, I told him to calm down - we'd wait and then we'd have "Christmas Eve" and all would be merry.

He hung up on me and I met Little One's worried eyes. "I want Daddy to go with us," she said softly and I nodded, recognizing the family manipulation characteristic when I saw it. As Smallest One began to repeat "Daddy" between sniffles and coughs, my parents and I grew more miserable sitting there in the rain. The fifth time Brother called to vent his frustration, we unbuckled and went inside to wait as he'd originally requested.

"I told you 4:30!" he said as we helped the girls with their coats. "No earlier! No later! Why would you come earlier?! Why?!"

"It's 4:20," I pointed out in what I thought was a reasonable tone and watched with horrified fascination when his nostrils flared and he began to slam dishes around in his kitchen. "Hey!" I interrupted sharply. "You Will Stop," I hissed, wearing my most disapproving of expressions. "You're upsetting the girls and this stops now."

Just after 5:00, both girls and Brother had been in tears. Apart from the brief bout of weeping, he remained furious while my parents and I tried - and partially failed - to elicit further outbursts. Still, given that they do keep the girls a lot - they've had them for 4 days straight and are rather exhausted - they were feeling a bit petulant and unappreciated themselves.

At nearly 1AM, Little One has emerged from our shared room and joined me on the couch. So we'll wait for a resolution for a little while longer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Checking It Twice

"My test plan passed," I announced hurriedly, dropping off a huge binder and piling additional signed pages atop it. "So everything is covered in there and you should have all the paperwork required. I have to go - I have shopping to do and Mom will have the girls call to make me miserably guilty if I don't drive home on Wednesday."

I waved and said I'd be back in tomorrow as I shrugged into my coat while scampering down the hallways toward the lobby. I had finished the most urgent of emails. Done the biggest of experiments. And now it was time to escape for personal reasons.

Last week, I took care of my car. I had four customer meetings. I went out with friends. I completed several key action items. This weekend, I talked to Friend. I rearranged my bedroom and living room. I put gas in my car and bought a few groceries. I did laundry and picked up eye drops for my puppy. I left cat litter in the car to take to my parents for Mr. Sprout.

Despite being exhausted, I forced myself to Menards and Target. I tend not to enjoy home improvement stores, especially when having to work independently. But Brother called this weekend to ask if he should get a gift certificate for my parents and I frowned before saying I'd take care of it. We knew what we wanted - it seemed more thoughtful to actually purchase the object and risk them returning it rather than handing them a tiny card and wishing them luck.

So I braced myself before parking in the Menards parking lot and decided it didn't look too busy. I grabbed a cart and hurried toward the inclined walkway that led to the second floor. The wheels clung to the rubber mat so after giving it a few experimental, unsuccessful shoves, I stood still while I made my way slowly from the ground floor. I moved over toward the fireplaces and peered at them, wearing my best 'lost and confused' expression so someone would swoop in to rescue me.

When that didn't work, I braced myself and read the informative signs, sighing when I still didn't see what I wanted. Abandoning my cart, I set off to find help and interrupted a young man stocking shelves. He frowned after I finished my question and promised to call someone on the little communication device attached to his smock. I called a quick thank you and blinked at all the ventilation supplies around me before shuddering and heading back to the fireplaces to wait.

"Hi," Melanie called as she approached to offer her assistance. Her hair was pulled back in a smooth ponytail while her bangs swung free and I wished my own messy knot looked a bit neater.

"Do you know fireplaces?" I asked hopefully, grinning widely when she nodded. "Excellent!" I praised and began my story. "My parents have a wood-burning fireplace in their basement and like the gas one I have in my living room. I read online that there are inserts - I didn't bring the articles, but I'm pretty sure they're real - that switch fireplaces from wood to gas."

"So they like the one they have? No issues with how it looks or vents?" she asked and I nodded, dutifully following her to a low set of shelves and frowning as she showed me the various options. "How big is their fireplace?"

I blinked at her before shrugging and guessing it was average size. "More?" I tentatively decided when she asked how much heat I wanted. "Yes," I replied to her offer of a remote start, "Mom would like that." I smiled again when she placed the insert and remote in my cart and wished me a merry Christmas. I then left for the more comfortable confines of Target to finish shopping for the kids.

"We don't exchange gifts at Christmas," Sibling explained over lunch and I blinked at her with a forkful of spinach halfway to my lips. "How many do you get?" she asked curiously.

"Last year?" I paused to remember. "Four, I think?" I frowned. "Four sounds right - we've slowed down as we get older. But the girls get a lot."

"Quantify a lot," she requested and I smiled at her while chewing my salad. "Mom and Dad will probably get them 10-20 gifts each."

"Forty presents?" she exclaimed incredulously and I swallowed the remark that I'd planned to get them around 10 items each myself.

"It's just what we've always done," I shrugged. "We went to Grandma and Grandpa's when I was little and opening presents was always a lengthy event. Takes about an hour to get everything unwrapped and give cursory examinations of your new stuff. It's almost a measurement of affection, odd as that sounds. And I haven't purchased enough to indicate I love the girls as much as I do. So I'll go get more."

We ate in silence for several moments before I offered that I hate A Christmas Story with a passion.

"Thank goodness," she sighed. "At least we have that in common." Yet the other trait we share is that we're continuing to work through much of the holiday break, taking only a few days here and there for the next two weeks and trying frantically to get caught up before everyone returns. We chatted about how we're trying to keep up - checking items off lists and falling into bed at night realizing that morning is coming far too quickly.

Even as I write this, presents (8 each for the Ones from me) wait on the dining room table to be wrapped. But a fire is flickering and Chienne sleeping across the room. So it's cozy, even if spectacularly busy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ladies & Gentlemen

After 8 hours at the office, I departed mid-afternoon and met colleagues at a coffeehouse near campus. Three of us settled at a large wooden table near the counter, sighing in the warm glow of a flickering fire in the corner and muted conversations from every angle. As machines hissed and sputtered, we sipped and went over presentations to ensure we were operating from the same - or at least a similar - perspective on a particular project.

I looked around as we chatted, admiring the plush bear head mounted on the wall. Everything felt rather sweet and soft, gently coaxing one to relax for a cloudy afternoon in the cozy building. We pondered and laughed at our table, taking notes - me on paper and Sibling on her laptop - as PrettyHair considered questions and offered insightful responses.

After two hours, I started at the sharp vibration on my right hip, moving quickly to withdraw my phone. "It's time to meet Adam," I told them. "Do you want to come with me? It'll be fun!"

"Why doesn't he come here?" PrettyHair asked, nibbling at the final smidgen of her pumpkin bread.

"He prefers alcohol to caffeine," I repeated what he told me. "So we're just meeting at the bar across the way there." I bundled up while Sibling decided she'd join us soon and PrettyHair opted out for the evening.

It was shortly after 5 when I parked the Jeep barely a half mile from where it had waited at the coffee shop and carefully made my way across the ice and inside the building. I wandered through the lobby, glancing at the mostly-empty dining room before selecting a stool at the bar and perching on the edge while I pulled coat sleeves from my arms.

"Riesling would be lovely," I smiled at the bartender when he suggested a house wine at my prompting. I pulled phone from pocket again, frowning at it and laboriously entered "Waiting..." before sending the impatient message. After doing so, I looked around the dim space and admired how the low light still sparkled off the wine glasses hung from the ceiling. I wished for a moment that I'd sent a message to a lover, awaiting his arrival after a long day at work. Perhaps we'd kiss briefly when he managed to arrive before chatting over a drink or two and, once relaxed, departing for one house or another.

Reminding myself not to grow despondent - I've long known such a man isn't coming regardless of how much I wish or long I wait - I sipped the semi-sweet, golden wine and tried to relax. Adam arrived only moments before Sibling and ordered a beer before distracting me with stories of furious bosses and delightfully messy politics at work. I stayed at the bar, comfortably sandwiched between two of my favorite people, and had more wine and a few snacks while we giggled and talked.

"I have to go," I finally said as my phone reported it was near 7PM. "I have a teleconference soon." Adam waved me away after I thanked him for covering the bill and I hurried back to the office some 13 hours after I'd arrived that morning. I took two such calls from my office, rather enjoying the way the lights automatically flickered off - save a few spots for safety - promptly at 7:30.

I walked slowly toward my car again just after 9:30, inhaling the freezing air and watching the Jeep's lights illuminate reassuringly when I pressed the button my remote. I considered my situation - the cozy warmth of peppermint tea and dark chocolate mochas with fabulous women followed by cheesy snacks, German beer and sweet wine surrounded - apart from Sibling - by men. I was tired while I completed my commute and greeted Chienne in a house that was deterioriating from cluttered to pit o' messiness, doing little other than nibbling on some pretzels and yawning as I climbed the steps to my room.

- Backdated from when I meant to write it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prior Planning

I came in the door after chipping away at the mound of ice and snow that has accumulated at the end of my driveway, dropping Target bags on the kitchen floor before stuffing a couple items in the freezer.

"I brought you something," I told Chienne and her mood - already happy because I was home - grew to curiously delirious. I withdrew a mesh bag from the white plastic and opened the top before upending it and watching a dozen new tennis balls bounce happily over the tile in my kitchen as they diffused isotropically.

Chienne paused for a moment, watching all of them bounce, before glancing up at me and selecting one to chase down and carry in her mouth. At last count, only 8 remain scattered about the kitchen table. Two were placed downstairs and two up so that there's always something new and bouncy near at paw.

I try to allow the universe as few opportunities as possible to surprise me, trying valiantly to remain half-observant and prepared for what comes next. This weekend was spent largely on planning for Europe while I sat in front of the fire. I read hotel reviews; I pored over British Rails schedules; I memorized my 10 flight times and mapped out sightseeing routes in my rare free moments. I sighed over my hotel in northestern (I think) England, smiling when booking early saved me 10 pounds that I decided to spend on the cupcakes they could send to my room. (It will be my birthday - I deserve cupcakes.) I may have gained a few wrinkles while fretting over hotel locations in London, finally choosing two. I trembled a bit when selecting my room in Paris, deciding after hours online that I was more intrigued than afraid of the Iles and picking a pricey room there within walking distance of an older part of Paris. Being left only with choices in Munich, I decided to await recommendations from a colleague.

I battle feelings of intense excitement - I've long loved the idea of European travel and - apart from a single trip to England in grad school - have been unable to manage it. I also grow terribly nervous, knowing most of the trip will be spent feeling either delighted or unsettled (or both) because I'm a creature of routine. And when taken out of my element, my brain struggles to ever relax.

I was thinking - as the oven preheated to make a flatbread with ham and cheese and green onion for a simple supper - that there is a clear order for how I survive. I wake between 5:30 and 6, rolling from bed to stretch and brush my teeth before coming downstairs for coffee. I turn on the news - the local NBC station - and watch while I sip coffee with cream and check email and blogs before abandoning the Mac and opening my work computer to check my calendar and see what Asia and Europe have been up to while I slept.

Chienne generally comes down while I'm dealing with work email so I tell her good morning and she climbs up on the loveseat (no more hopping - she's getting to be an old girl) to cuddle a bit. After a bit, I go upstairs to shower and dress while she waits impatiently and whines demandingly. I follow her downstairs and put on my shoes while she scampers back and forth to the door before we head out for a walk. Upon coming home, she gets her eye drops - I murmur "good girl" after each eye - and then a munchy strip for a treat. I throw additional treats on the floor and request that she be good before heading out the garage with my laptop bag in tow.

So while a break in the routine is at least semi-welcome, there is a great deal of planning that must be in place. To that end, if you have suggestions for London, Paris or Germany, I'd very much like to hear them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I tucked the pink envelope bearing my name into my bag on Tuesday. I sighed upon seeing it, hurrying worriedly from the labs to my office to gather my things before the snow storm grew windy enough to trap me at the office, and it followed my laptop and phone into the bag I threw over my shoulder as I moved briskly from the building to scrape snow and ice off the Jeep.

I drove home, thinking more about the people who'd made me stay long after darkness fell and the storm worsened and continuing to direct my focus between slow turns and steady stops. When I made it home, I tugged my laptop out and frowned at the card before leaving it sealed in an envelope and resting at the bottom of my bag.

There it has stayed for the duration of the week, catching my attention upon arrival and departure to home and work. I'm beginning, quite honestly, to wonder if it will eventually disintegrate in there, so loathe am I to open it and read the message. Nor, however, can I bring myself to actually throw it away. I apparently respond to my abandonment issues by avoidance.

It isn't that I was overly sorry to see her go, honestly. She had moved on mentally before it was time to physically go, but that's natural and understandable - using the remainder of one's time to carry out goals that were a bit more selfish than they otherwise would have been. It was a bit of a drain on the group but we loved her - personally and professionally - so it was easily tolerated.

I felt myself drift easily into my "you're leaving" routine. I was easily irritated at inconsequential events. I withdrew and refused a majority of the invitations, wondering how many farewell parties with the same attendance list that one person required. I was busy on her last day, flitting from one meeting to the next before going to meet with customers when I saw her blinking back tears and lifting her final box of belongings.

"Time to go?" I asked gently and she nodded before hanging her head. I tucked my arm threw hers and we walked - far more slowly the normal - down the familiar hallways and toward the lobby. "Are you OK?" I offered when she didn't speak, already missing the way she spoke and passion she brought to her work. She shook her head and I nodded in reply.

"Leaving is hard," I commiserated. "But this part will be over soon and you'll have your new life to enjoy. So focus on the happy." She nodded and after I gave her hugs and kisses, she followed me to the labs when I glanced quizzically over my shoulder.

"I don't want to go," she whispered, looking around at the expensive equipment in rooms that had gone dark for the evening. I was looking at her, wondering what comfort to offer, when the group that awaited me in one lab called demandingly from the door. I turned to answer a question and respond charmingly to introductions and when I turned back, she was gone.

I'm a pretty bad friend for the same reason that I rather forgot she was gone after that moment of sadness. I get engrossed in what I'm doing. I enjoy my own company and guard my time very carefully. I don't like speaking on the phone and am pretty much maxed out after I finish with all the teleconferences work demands. So it took me a moment to make sense of the pink envelope when I returned to my office several hours after she'd gone.

Adam and I talked a couple of days later, lounging in his office and giggling over private jokes. I told him I hadn't been able to deal with her leaving and he - not uncommonly - looked at me with some confusion. "I don't like change," I confessed. "And I love this job and this place - I'm settled. I'm staying. And I guess I'm realizing that it means most of you are going to leave me here."

"At first opportunity," he teased and I smiled weakly before continuing to look worried and upset. As I watched a becoming-familiar expression of vague concern shift into his expression (he frets since finding out I'm being medicated for depression - better than some outcomes but hardly ideal), I wondered if this was because I remain single. Because I rely so heavily on a 'love the ones you're with' philosophy on friends? Because I have no plan to increase my sphere of acquaintances?

"I'm fine," I said, standing to leave.

"You say that a lot," he replied, leaving me to nod and smile sheepishly as I made my escape.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Industry is fun. And, like many fun places, there are games we can play.

The first I noticed was Hot Potato.
Rules: A task lands on a desk. Instead of doing the task and ending the game, we spread the enjoyment by sending any number of emails to 1) ask questions, 2) remark on the quality of the request or 3) explain why someone else is better suited to handle said task. Given that there is normally a 2-3 day delay between each new email, sometimes the tasks just go away because they've been ignored or discussed to death.

Now I've played hot potato with crap I really don't want to do. But I try very hard to complete action items that are possible. That habit, however, makes me resent the hell out of anyone who screws with my requests.

The trick to getting out of the game? The telephone. Confronting those who are hoping I'll just forget about it and the job goes away works wonders. And my handy spreadsheet of action items reminds me to follow up and demand explanations when crap takes too long.

The second game is more of a bad habit. One of my favorite parts of Industry is the clear power structure. I understand the organizational chart very well and find comfort in the explicit nature of it. But when I give an answer someone doesn't like, that person will go above or around me with repetitions of said request until they've found someone who'll make me do it or grow exhausted from the effort.

There are two things that should be widely known about me.
1. I like to make people happy. If I can do it, I will. I try not to say no and generally do it only when I'm protecting someone else's time.
2. I hate to lose. By going around/above me, people trigger my need for battle. And despite telling myself it's silly, I will put a tremendous amount of effort to make sure my response remains true.

I told someone no this morning. (It was actually a 'yes, but' rather than a firm 'no' but it was apparently read the same way.) I was also a bit terse in my reply because she's been bothering me incessantly about this thing and it just requires a lot of people's effort and isn't very important. So we'll try to get to it, but there aren't really guarantees. If something slips from the list, it could be her deal.

After multiple layers of trying to get around me, she ended up with the person who wanted my job before I started. Who then escalated it to 2 people the level above me.

Now that's OK - I was right and I don't mind defending my decisions. Still. I'm angry. And I shall plot revenge.

That's a game I indulge in quite a bit.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Thought Bubbles

Man1: "I didn't bring that."
Katie: [long pause which includes an expression which indicates I am shocked and frustrated] What, then, did you bring?
Unspoken thought: Dude. We exchanged fourteen emails this weekend coordinating this. You were irritating as hell. 14 times. And then you didn't do what you said you'd do! Do you not read English? Do you enjoy wasting time? Or are you an entirely useless individual?!
Unspoken thought after episode completion: Entirely Useless Individual.

Man2: You're a star.
Katie: Oh. You're welcome. No problem.
Unspoken thought: Had I know someone was going to murmur a complement with an English accent into my ear, I would have done something far nicer than going to fetch water for tea.

Woman1: It was awful.
Katie: Technical difficulties happen. Don't worry about it - we'll do better next time.
Unspoken thought: When you're late to begin a meeting, it gives you and any attendee very little time to adjust and work around said problems. Show up on time or stop complaining when your meetings go to hell. Because I'm tired of commiserating over problems you could have avoided.

Woman2: It's not possible to put all of those ideas on paper.
Katie: [Looks at example of the exact activity from another member of the team] I don't understand.
Woman2: It can't be done.
Katie: But Best did it. Right here. [Tap monitor.] I sent it to you so you could follow his example.
Unspoken thought: I understand you're burned out. I am hugely sympathetic that you may be struggling with a mood disorder. But when I ask you to capture knowledge in a presentation - something that our group does nearly constantly - I expect that to happen. It is not impossible. Saying it is makes no sense at all.

Man3: So you'll start in London, head to Germany then France.
Katie: Yes! [Begins to read off schedule.]
Man3: But those locations in England aren't that close together.
Unspoken thought: How the hell big is England? And aren't there trains?
Man3: I suppose you could get a car.
Unspoken thought: And drive on the other side of the road? No. I think not.
Man3: Plus, you could spend the weekend in Paris.
Katie: One weekend in London. One in Paris. Well, maybe 2 weekends in London - I'm completely infatuated with London.
Man3: Are you traveling alone?
Katie: I'm meeting people in various cities but I won't have the same buddy from beginning to end.
Unspoken thought: Thank goodness - people are irritating me lately.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Happy, happy!

  • I received official approval to book travel to Europe. There is now a chance that I'll turn 31 in London!
  • It's snowing! I enjoy snow once it's on the ground but I'm happiest while it's falling from the sky. Forecast indicates it will be falling from the sky a great deal this week.
  • It's Monday! The Big Bang Theory is on Monday (CBS. 8:30 Central). It makes me giggle.
  • Chienne is sleeping across the room. I missed her. It's very comforting to have her home.
  • I awakened at 5:15 feeling rested. I'm growing used to darkness that won't lift until I'm on my way to work. And I'm still happiest in the morning.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Being management in Industry feels a bit whorish at times.

For the most part, it doesn't bother me. But I don't mind being called and ordered to make nice with that group over here or listen to that guy over there. I'm dutifully charming at dinners. I sip drinks and laugh at jokes that aren't always funny.

I support the sale of high-quality products. And I'm fine with that.

But. Sometimes. There are some people. And they're stupid and wrong and do not deserve even a second of my attention. And it makes me moderately insane to have to pretend their requests are reasonable. To do what they ask without pitching a fit.

I do not like. But, with economic conditions such as they are, I do not have a choice.

So when I reply to an email or hang up the phone and call someone a whore? I follow that up with, "Oh, wait. That's me."

And then I curse. So much as I enjoy a majority of what I do, this part is still sometimes tough.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Too much

Standing in an enormous exhibit hall, I finally had a moment where I could check my messages.

“Katie,” PrettyHair greeted my voice mail (she said I had pretty hair the other day – it made me smile). “TinyFriend and I are in a cab going back to the hotel to get luggage. Then we’re catching the train. I, um, guess you’re taking the bus back home. I’ll leave the departure details in a text message.”

Her voice had been mildly guilty and I frowned darkly despite myself. The fact was that I had planned to take the bus back. There were a few options for coming home – a thing I desperately wanted to do since my head ached miserably – and people were taking various paths.

Now I rather like trains. Taking this one would have meant I could leave the show flow nearly three hours earlier. But while it was the more attractive choice, it was less sensible. The company sponsored bus was free while the train plus cab to where I’d left my car would have ended up being $100 or so. I also had meetings scheduled for later in the day so taking the train would have involved either excuses based on lies or an admission that I was tired and cranky and wanted to go home.

So I was going to stay late and take the bus. But I did not communicate that to my colleagues and I was, standing there surrounded by people talking and laughing in pairs or groups, furious that I’d been abandoned.

“Yes,” I answered my phone when PrettyHair called again. “I know,” I replied when she said they’d left.

“Well,” she paused, trying to think since I’m rarely that sharp with people at work. “I hope you get home safely.”

“Fine. Bye.” I replied, snapping my phone closed and reaching desperately for a sense of professional calm as I returned to questioning customers.

It was when I returned to the coat room two hours later that I began to feel sad. I mechanically tugged my suitcase from its spot in the corner and balanced my laptop bag atop it. I draped my coat over my arm and unclipped my badge from my suit jacket. I rode a couple of escalators, pausing to ask security for directions to the gate where my bus would depart, and got lost twice while trying to navigate the bridges and tunnels and endless choices of moving stairs. I had a snack at a table alone, pretending to read while feeling terribly isolated from people around me.

There were a number of buses outside when I found the properly numbered gate, the smell of exhaust nearly overwhelming. I looked around, knowing I was stuck in my head when I was unable to even imagine asking every driver if he could go to where I wanted. I looked around, feeling lost and confused, and pounced on the first woman who wore the same distinctive badge I’d removed from my jacket earlier.

“Are you going back to headquarters?” I asked, ready to burst into tears if she said no. She didn’t, smiling and motioning that I should follow her to one of the buses near the end of the row, offering to help with my luggage that I dragged behind me. I sagged with relief once I was settled in my seat, cuddled against my suitcase for comfort. I finished some email as we waited for more people to board, closing my laptop to embrace the darkness when the driver extinguished the lights and began to accelerate to join the flow of traffic outside.

“I’ve been reading,” I told one of the business leaders over fish and chips one evening, “and one theory is that depression is an overreaction to negative emotional stimulation.” This man, one I like and admire, nodded and nudged the malt vinegar bottle toward me. I nodded my thanks. “So when something bad happens, the brain responds more and longer than normal.”

“And that’s why you seem so sad sometimes,” he said quietly and I nodded.

“I just overreact,” I replied. “And though the medication helps, I still get lost in it sometimes.”

I felt overwhelmed there in the bus, sitting as I was in the third row, as far from the others as I could manage. There was a man behind me who would laugh now and again and something inane. It was all I could do not to turn and demand he stop. That he respect my pain and disappointment and feelings of abandonment and remain silent as we stopped and started depending on the will of traffic around us. I would tense each time he chuckled, gritting my teeth and closing my eyes and silently begging for conversations to cease.

I thought of the latest person to be done with me in a personal sense, smiling rather bitterly when I realized I’d thought I’d be the one to be done with him first. I do alienate people, I acknowledged, eager to make the break before they can decide I’m no longer worthwhile. But I’m sometimes inefficient. I grow increasingly skilled at keeping people at a distance and shoving at anyone who manages to get too close. When wondering if that was as horrible as it sounded became unpleasant, I let my mind go blank while I stared out the window.

I felt brittle with stress by the time we arrived at the building, stepping awkwardly from the bus while coaxing my suitcase down the stairs and onto the sidewalk. I waited for a woman to reach me, smiling weakly when she emerged.

“I’m sorry,” I said first. “My friends were supposed to come with me, but they didn’t and my car is over there,” I motioned and winced that it was more than a mile. “I could walk,” I offered.

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “It’s late and cold – I don’t mind taking you.”

I nodded, following her to her car and waving before throwing my suitcase in the back of the Jeep and tucking myself behind the steering wheel. I sighed, momentarily euphoric to be back in control of my transportation. I called my parents, spending my commute home catching up and asking them to bring Chienne back to me on Friday. The entire crew will arrive – Brother, his girlfriend, Little and Smallest Ones, Mom, Dad, Chienne and – if caught – Mr. Sprout. I checked my mood and realized I wanted them here. Pleased, I decided it might have been stress and exhaustion that made me react so strongly to taking the bus on my own. Not a big deal at all.

TinyFriend called just as I was pulling into my garage and I glared at the phone before answering.

“Hi,” I replied to her tentative greeting. “Did you need something?” I listened as she said she only wanted to make sure I’d arrived home. “Just now,” I answered, barely managing not to snap out the words. “I’m fine. Good night.”

Realizing I was furious and hurt once again, I came inside, only to wince when there was no happy canine to offer joyful greetings. I sat on the floor to unpack my suitcase, throwing laundry in a pile by the steps and leaving toiletries inside the bag to tug upstairs with me. Not wanting to analyze the day or my reaction to it, I said a quick prayer that I’d fall asleep quickly, turned the television on the lowest volume to keep me company and went to sleep.

It is a big deal, I thought as I drifted off. But I don't know how to change it so we'll leave this post sans suitable conclusion.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I exited at the mile marked 50 and drove quickly toward home. I grinned when I saw the neighborhood remained littered with garbage bags and recycling bins and made a mental note to take my trash to the curb before leaving for a business trip tomorrow morning.

Last week, I turned down two lovely and local invitations in favor of trekking home with Creature Big and Creature Small. Creature Small found himself locked out of the basement and all three bedrooms upstairs first thing Thursday morning, showing his stripey displeasure by yowling at the top of his lungs while Chienne happily scampered toward the car and took her spot in the front seat.

“I know,” I told Sprout even as he yelled at me and dug his claws into the carpet as I lifted him into my arms. “You don’t like to go. But you’ll get lonely here all by yourself for a week. So to grandmother’s house you go, buddy.”

We made excellent time, finding few fellow travelers on Thanksgiving morning. My plan had been to make the trip on Wednesday but I got stuck at work on the day I’d officially taken off and was headachey, irritable and exhausted upon arriving home. So I decided to wait a day, and, as I sped through the gloomy morning, was rather glad I did.

I arrived home to find tight hugs and pies baking. As Chienne offered frantically loving greetings to my parents, I broke off a piece of pie crust sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and poured a cup of coffee before perching on the couch next to Mom. We talked, catching up on personal stories and watching local and national ones on television so we could offer expert commentary.

It was just after noon when I asked, still clad in stripey pajama pants and a t-shirt speckled with tiny holes, if we should get ready. Mom and Dad indicated they already were, leaving me to pad down the hall and slip into jeans and sweater. We packed up the pies (apple, pumpkin and cherry) and head off to Aunt and Uncle’s house.

“We won’t have enough,” Dad reported sadly upon walking in and setting the pies on the counter. “There are five of us and we only have 3 pies. So if everyone wants some, we’ll have to share. Like animals.”

Mom might have been abashed for her abundance if she’d been born to another family, but that’s just how we roll. On Thanksgiving, there are three kinds of pies. Also, Aunt began to remove dish after dish from the oven and refrigerator until the table was filled with corn and green bean casserole, rolls and a whole (though modest) turkey, stuffing and a huge green salad, cranberries and olives and potatoes – sweet and mashed.

After folding our hands and bowing our heads, Aunt said grace and we soon began to pass dishes and talk. Uncle is almost completely deaf but I soon remembered to keep my hands away from my lips when I talked and make sure he could see my mouth. We giggled and complained and ate and ate. Once full, I refilled water and wine glasses and began to clear the table.

I felt wonderfully relaxed and happy as I scraped ick into the garbage and rinsed the dishes before finding them a spot in the dishwasher. Standing there, mere steps from my family in Aunt’s open kitchen, I realized I didn’t feel miserable about being there alone. I knew Brother and my cousins were with their respective partners but felt oddly un-pathetic as we continued to converse.

I’m resigned to remaining alone, I realized and accepted the sharp pain that resulted in that acknowledgment. And though I still feel less than grateful that Thanksgiving triggers that for me, I seem to be growing out of the desire to sit alone and weep over my terrible misfortune. I can grow up and appreciate what is rather than wallowing in what won’t be.

I woke this morning, patted Chienne as she cuddled closer and wriggled out of the daybed to join Mom in the living room. Dawn was still at least an hour away but the Christmas tree sparkled in the darkness as I flopped down on the couch across the room from where she was curled on the loveseat.

“I was coughing,” she said and I nodded – I’d heard her. “I don’t want to go shopping,” she continued and I grinned and said thank you. She smiled back at me and we sat, mostly quiet, and stared at the lights and ornaments decorating our tree.

Ones – Little and Smallest – arrived in pajamas and sneakers at 8. They were dressed in layers a few hours later, all of us buckled in the van as we headed downtown for the parade. There’s something magical about watching tiny bemittened hands waving back at firemen on the truck. I watched Smallest One perched on Brother’s shoulders, her mouth forming the name of the red character that walked down the street, waving madly when Elmo glanced her way. Little One, pretty as a princess, watched quietly for the most part. She waved and smiled when I adjusted her hat over her ears. She curled closer when I sat next to her on the curb, only to pop up when the next band or float slowly moved past.

Little One unbuckled herself and bounced out of the van when we were safely parked in the driveway at home. She scampered off, leaving me to think she’s getting to be such a big girl. Smallest One, conversely, had worn herself out, remaining soundly asleep even as I unfastened the multiple restraints on her carseat and scooped her out to hand to Dad.

“Boppy,” she demanded sleepily as he carried her inside. “Boppy, PawPaw.” So while she curled up in the bed I’d vacated that morning, pacifier lying safely beside her and pink blankie clutched in her hand, Little One and I colored Christmas pictures in the book I’d brought for them.

I soon leaned over to give hugs and kisses, deciding to make the drive in daylight rather than fretting over deer fleeing under cover of night. Chienne stood next to my mom, her snout visible even in the dim light in the corner of the kitchen that leads to the garage. Once I backed out, I rolled my window down to wave at Little One and her grandpa as they stood on the porch to wave. Chienne and Mom waited inside the glass door and I sighed sadly before driving away.

I’m now home – just for the evening – and I hate it here without the animals. So I thought I’d distract myself with a blog post and finish packing before taking a bath and getting some sleep. While I hope I find time to post while I’m away – at least toss you some photos – I’m unsure if I’ll find time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Musical Memory

In March, 2006, I was driving toward a friend's house. Deep in the throes of what turned out to be little more than a lengthy and ill-fated crush, I gave myself stern pep talks as I prepared to dial the object of my affection to talk.

I recall the way my cheeks warmed and heart raced. I vividly remember the way my attention split among desire to call and hear his voice, terror that I'd say something stupid and distraction that I wouldn't find Dave's house so that I could rest before heading back to post-doc city. It was dark and barely raining, my windshield wipers smearing the glow of lights around me. I stopped at Arby's, knowing I should be hungry at 8PM since I'd not eaten since breakfast, but found myself too nervous to order anything more than a soda.

There was music. I had my iPod plugged in and let someone sing at a moderate volume while I glanced and directions and sipped soda and gathered my courage.

In August, 2009, I remembered that moment in startling clarity, save one detail. While I remembered the laptop bag that rested on the seat beside me, could recall the MapQuest directions that I'd printed and scrawled notes on and found the memory of my knotted stomach and hopeful heart bittersweet, I was unable to remember who had been singing.

"Something about scars and acceptance," I murmured. "Sort of smooth and sexy and sad." Then I swore because I couldn't remember anything relevant - artist, album, enough lyrics to google a line. I just remembered the emotion.

And it Drove Me Nuts. Each time I picked up my iPod, the remembered music with forgotten titles tickled my consciousness. I focused - closing my eyes tight and wrinkling my nose in an attempt to remember by sheer force of will. When that didn't work, I relaxed, confident that my brain would eventually locate that pocket of knowledge and tell me what I wished to know.

It's now November. And I was no closer to hearing the songs again.

While I remain on my first iPod - a gift from my parents upon finishing grad school - it failed early this year and I had to wipe it before reloading software. Though I reloaded most of my music, there were bits and pieces that I didn't manage to transfer. When I noticed, I would find the pesky files and move them over.

I'd searched and missed it, knowing it was just like waking up first thing and looking for the toothpaste and, though I was looking right at it, it just didn't register. I tend to be mostly oblivious, assuming people and events don't require my attention unless they explicitly ask for it. But this - having known something and recognized my enjoyment of it and forgotten it - was too much to bear.

Finally, completely annoyed with my inability to trigger the memory, I got resourceful, searched old iTunes receipts and immediately found the files and began to listen. And in that moment of November, 2009, I was completely content.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Owning Your Actions

Corporate life has introduced a number of new terms into my lexicon. We speak in a way that is sometimes ridiculously self-conscious and awkward and I think we do it in order to seem important. Regardless, we speak a great deal about actions and owners and how the two of them lead to great progress (and preferably profit).

"Couldn't we work as a team?" PrettyHair asked, twirling a lock about her finger while I scowled at her attempt to escape another task.

"No," Adam noted simply. "I mean, you can and should work as a team. But I want a single person responsible for getting it done correctly and on time." Such a directive hangs on the wall (along with oft-ignored rules to start meetings on time and have clear objectives before demanding people congregate).

I rather like being assigned my tasks for a given time, having done an excellent job pulling together my play date. It gives me authority to demand help, power to revise as ruthlessly as necessary. With that comes the blame if it all goes to hell, but I'm pretty cool with that too.

"I'm not sure he's worth it," a friend said.

"How so?" I asked, always absently as I tried to get work done and wondered what personal drama I was to hear.

"Well, I could move up in the company. Go anywhere. Do anything. But he's making me give that up to be with him!"

"You," I scolded good-naturedly, "are revising history, my dear. I remember there being a man. Then he was a man who loved you and you loved him in return. They you got a job offer closer to where he lives and - with him reserving judgment - decided to take it. Now, I hope it works out. That you're blissfully happy forever and ever and that you don't miss this career path for a single second. But the decision was yours. And putting that kind of pressure on a relationship seems non-ideal."

She frowned at me darkly before nodding.

"I," I continued thoughtfully, "sometimes cry before bed because I never see this loneliness ending. Yet I don't put myself out there because I think there's more risk than reward. I am dedicated to my career because there's not a whole lot else going on with me. So I think you took a look at what I've chosen and selected that alternative. And that's wonderful. So embrace that and be excited and happy that you have this opportunity rather than mourning the path you turned down. Sure, be a little sad - we'll miss you. Some of your projects may not get done without you here. But focus on the happy, for goodness sake! You're starting to bum me out."

"Did you hire her?" I asked another manager as we sipped soup in his office.

"Of course," he replied, sulking.

"And you make the rules - assign responsibility, follow up, give her reviews?"

"Yes," he said, beginning to glare.

"Kiddo," I sighed, wondering why I've selected that as my term of endearment for men, "I fail to see why I should pity you. It seems you did this yourself and have all the power to fix it."

"It's hard," he sighed.

"Oh, sweetheart," I sighed in return, feeling pleased that I'd been around long enough to be simultaneously exasperated and affectionate. "I know it is. And I am sorry. But you can either stay gloomy or figure this out."

"Tell me how to figure it out," he grinned, reaching across his desk to steal a packet of my crackers. I reached to take a corner of his cookie and sat back in my chair.

"Aren't there decision trees for this sort of thing?" I teased. "I suppose you figure out what motivates her," I said more seriously, thinking carefully. "You stress accountability and set limits that you don't cross. And you need to consider your team - how her behavior affects them and how long you're willing to tolerate that." I eyed his cookie, having already finished the small section I'd taken. "I don't know," I finally sighed. "This is why I don't really want direct reports."

Thursday, November 19, 2009


When I glanced up and saw a colleague at my door, I barely refrained from saying out loud. Still, all I could think was "What the hell could you possibly want from me now?" It was shortly after I helped her that I packed up my things and walked out of the building before noon. I'd sent a short note to Adam that I was past my limit and needed some time to settle.

It's not been a terrible week, I thought as I headed to fetch breadsticks, hummus and chocolate. (I wanted them.) I had dinner with a friend one night. Worked on early and late teleconferences and did lots of tasks between them. I went for a meal with some visiting collaborators last night, doing my best to be peppy, charming and engaged with their stories. I enjoyed it - they were lovely, fascinating people who do interesting work - but barely stayed awake enough to drive home thanks to the single margarita I enjoyed.

So I picked up a paperback and some snacks and drove home. I took a nap and a shower (in that order). I read my book - it was mediocre - and relaxed. And I now feel capable of facing the last day of this week and the work that awaits me this weekend.

If I owe you an email, I'm sorry - I want to reply but I start sentences and can't think clearly enough to finish them. Thank you for your message and I'll be in touch soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Full Disclosure

“Totally worth it,” I offered faux-absently and tried hard to keep from grinning when all attention was directed my way. “What?” I asked, looking between the pair of people in my office and shrugging. “It is.”

I finally smiled widely when they continued to stare at me in surprise and shrugged before returning my attention to my computer.

“Wait,” he finally said and, wearing my inquisitive expression, I glanced up to make eye contact. We had been discussing online activities and one of my female colleagues said she failed to understand the appeal.

“Facebook, MySpace, blogs – I just don’t see how that’s fun,” she mused and I did nothing but shrug.

“I play games on Facebook,” the third of our trio offered and I nodded absently at his statement. She scoffed.

Games?” she asked, her tone derisive. “I think of that like… like… cybersex.” Partially annoyed but mostly bored, I offered my comment that the latter activity was “totally worth it.”

“Seriously?” he asked, continuing to stare at me in shock.

“Yes,” I answered, feeling myself blush a bit. “I don’t get gaming – Facebook farming or medieval warfare or whatever you do. But chatting about sex? That can be quite,” I paused, looking for the right word and starting to wish I’d remained quiet. “Entertaining,” I decided and nodded in confirmation.

“Are you good?” he asked at the same time she had a horrified question about how I could possibly chat with someone who could be 70 years old with a big belly and bald head.

“OK, wait,” I said, turning to face her while the man in the room began to giggle. “Let’s not make this into a horror story here. I don’t go trolling online to meet strangers and then immediately start telling them what I’m wearing. I’ve known the men - ”

“Men?” they interrupted in unison and I rolled my eyes.

“Yes, all both of them,” I replied. “I’m not as boring as you originally thought but I’m not very exciting either.”

“I know it’s not easy,” I said, speaking slowly and carefully as I focused on the woman across the table that held our coffee, tea and shared slice of poppy seed bread. “I felt,” I paused to think. “Overwhelmed. Like I was suffocating. And I couldn’t deal with people or read books or work or do anything other than exist with this vague hope that I'd feel better at some point. And I don’t want that for you. Even thinking about it upsets me.”

“But I’m better now,” she insisted and I frowned while I swirled my peppermint tea bag through the hot pool of water in my mug.

“I’m glad you feel better,” I replied sincerely. “But you’re not,” I shook my head, flustered and irritated with myself. “I’ll start again. You don’t seem well. Listen, I may be overreacting but I’ve been watching in meetings and you seem overly sensitive. Not truly engaged in the discussion. Very easily offended when no offense was meant.”

“I don’t like him,” she said sadly of her boss and I nodded, ordering myself to sit silently and listen. I had allocated a mere hour to have coffee and fix her mental health and I reminded myself that my upcoming meeting could wait. “He always talks badly about me and I can never do anything right and he doesn’t care about the right things!”

“Sweetheart,” I said gently, folding my hands around my mug and tapping my fingertips against each other. “He doesn’t talk badly about you to me. I’ve heard him say very positive things about your talent. But I do understand feeling unmotivated when you’re never praised or recognized for your efforts. For me, depression makes that worse – I either feel attacked or irrelevant. There’s never anything good that I can recognize. But your boss is your boss – he’s not going anywhere. So I see this as being pretty binary – you can learn to happily work for him or you can look for something else.”

I winced when her eyes filled with tears and broke a piece of bread from the slice to give myself time to consider my next statement.

“Have you thought about looking for something else? Stay in the business but work for another manager? Or stay on campus and work with a different group?”

“I have,” she said slowly. “But there’s nothing out there. And I can’t deal with it.”

“But,” I said, ready to be encouraging and helpful and she stopped me by raising a hand. She shifted in her chair so I could see only her profile and put her head down. My heart hurt for a moment, watching her withdraw, and I stayed quiet while I waited for her to speak.

“This is taking me to a bad place,” she finally said, keeping her eyes fixed on a spot on the wall. “I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I’m sorry,” I whispered and she nodded.

“I will,” I said, speaking softly but firmly as we walked back to our offices several awful moments later, “do anything I can to help you. If you want to talk. If I can make a doctor appointment, drive you there, wait outside for you. If you want me to talk to your boss and tell him about how it feels to be depressed. And maybe I’m wrong – maybe medication isn’t the answer for you. Maybe shifting jobs isn’t a good option either. But I’m very afraid you can’t wish this away. I’m worried you’re continuing to decline and that you’ll reach a place where I don’t know how to help you. Where suffering is all there is. I remember that,” I paused, shuddered. “I do not want that for you.” I repeated, stopping myself before I begged her to see someone. To release me from this responsibility I felt for her.

“I’ll think about it,” she said and I nodded.

“We’ll make her go,” another friend stated firmly when I shook my head at her question of how it went. I smiled at her resolute expression and pictured her shoving our colleague back into an exam room.

“No,” I replied calmly. “She’s not ready. You can’t force it. Neither can I.”

“But you said she’ll get worse,” she said, looking suddenly small and scared as she dropped into one of my extra chairs. “And it’s already falling apart for her. People don’t like her. They think she’s unreliable. Uninterested. Or irrationally emotional.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “But she has to get to a place where she wants help. Where being diagnosed isn’t scarier than continuing to suffer.”

“We could get her help and she wouldn’t have to decide!” she tried again, looking hopeful.

“We can’t force her to take a pill every day,” I said gently.

“Maybe she doesn’t need pills!” she said and I nodded. Just because medication is reasonably effective to me does not mean it’s universally applicable. “Maybe she needs a pet.”

“OK,” I grinned. “We can’t force her to get a pet either.”

“I will buy her a cat.” And I laughed because it’s a lovely statement to make.

“OK,” I replied again. “We can’t make her feed the cat every day.”

“Oh,” she said. “Good point. No cat.”

“No cat,” I confirmed, feeling a bit brighter as she walked from my office. Then I remembered Sprout and how I could barely feed him every day when I was so depressed. And I thought that while ‘I can’t force her to get help’ and ‘she may get much worse’ are bad on their own, they are hideous when paired. Feeling helpless, I sighed before packing up my computer and coming home to desperately hope everything will be OK.

I hate this. And I don't know what to do next.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I changed my desktop photo on my work laptop. I find it to be bittersweet, honestly. Thinking of lying on the beach on the north shore of O'ahu, staring through sunglasses at the crystal-clear water that slowly turned greenish-blue. Puffy clouds drifted far above the leafy trees that offered shade from the bright sun. And I, lounging in paradise and smoothing on sunscreen, was lamenting my professional failures.

I changed the photo because it's growing cold outside. I've no vacations on the horizon. There is nothing but work and sleep and more work ahead and I missed Hawaii. I longed for sleeping in and watching the ocean and going breathless at how aesthetically perfect it was. But I also smiled at how far I've come. How lovely it is to look back at the Spring and realize I've made excellent use of Summer and Fall.

I had a job offer - something I would have killed to do before taking this job in Industry - and didn't even consider it past a brief and flattered refusal. (Though if anyone is interested in a staff research position for the chair of a biomedical department at an excellent school in the upper Midwest, send me a note.) I'm happy here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Katie @ Work

I missed the fourth blogiversary of my dear Minor Revisions. It was Friday and I worked a long day and then came home too exhausted to post. Yesterday I read and rested, taking time only to do laundry and blankly read incoming email.

But! I have slowly accumulated Fabulous Prizes (!!!) to make up the Katie @ Work box which will be shipped to a randomly-selected commenter. (Disclaimer - if you didn't not win the Care Bear, you will automatically be entered into the Katie @ Work contest. Comment if you'd like to enter twice.)

Timing is everything!
While I pondered what I should be included, my first purchase was an adorable silver alarm clock. "I love clocks," I sighed to TinyFriend as we stood in Target. "They're so pretty and functional."

"I hate clocks," she replied, shuddering for effect while I frowned at her.

"Maybe that's why you're always late," I sniffed. "Clocks are our friends. They tell us when to be places." And so I hope that a lucky winner will have an adorable clock perched on his or her desk to remind him or her that Katie Is Disappointed when winners show up late.

Always Stay Hydrated
I get headaches. One thing that helps is frequently visiting the water cooler to fill a bottle with water, sipping often throughout the day as I talk in meetings and talk on the phone and talk to myself. I did, however, feel guilty that I was going through plastic water bottles shamefully quickly even when I dutifully walked them to the recycle bins in the cafeteria. Therefore, I asked the NWF to send me water bottles when I donated last time. You may have the gold one (because you're a winner!) and we can be water bottle buddies!

In addition, sometimes a warm beverage is necessary. You'll receive one of my favorite geeky mugs and some excellent mint tea. Breathe in the minty vapor... Sip the minty tea... Try not to yell at the irritating people...

Tools of the Trade
I have three (3) cups to hold pencils, pens, markers, scissors, etc. on my desk. I enjoy immediate access to anything I might need. So the Katie @ Work box contains...
- A pretty pencil cup
- A revealing pen (Post-doctoral institution)
- A revealing pencil (Local football team)
- DVD/CD holder
- Multi-colored post-its! I love sticky notes. I maintain my to-do list strictly in Excel so that I have records of when tasks showed up and can track their completion. But post-its remain awesome for scrawling tiny reminders or making a note to carry around stuck to your sweater.

Who's a pretty princess?
Given the meetings I'm sometimes required to join with little notice, I keep a drawer filled with items in case I need to start over. I can run to the restroom, wash my face, moisturize, reapply make-up and fix my hair within 10 minutes. So without being terribly girly (males welcome to comment and win!), I've included a few necessary items.
- Hand lotion because offices are often dry
- Relaxing lotion - eucalyptis and spearmint in case you need to calm down
- ProActive Repairing Lotion in case you find a blemish that needs immediate treatment
- Nail clippers. Broken nails, hangnails are overly distracting unless quickly remedied.
- Origins eye treatment. Puffy eyes strike many of us. I like the soothing nature of this goo.
- Lip gloss! I have an addiction to the minty gloss with red tint. If you're anti-tint, I can give you clear.
- Hair clip and 3 ponytail holders. My hair looks better down but I tend to end up with it back when I'm Focused and Thinking. (I also have to turn off any music in a car when I'm driving in traffic. I have no idea why.)
- Band-aids in case you are injured (perhaps by pretty but painful shoes)
- Aveda bag to neatly store your pretty items in the back of a drawer.

It's the extras the matter, yes?
1 tiny plush friend
1 business card so I can add you to the list of calls I ignore on my cell phone*
Several fruit snacks - I like the pomegranate fruit jerky
I may think of more - but I'm close to being done.

* Work is (for me) all about power. So how better to demonstrate that by giving you the power to expose me and perhaps get me fired?

Rules and Regulations
Comment until Friday. Katie to feel guilty that she doesn't have more prizes for everyone who comments immediately upon first comment. Winner notified by email and with a request for mailing address on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


"I'll try," she replied softly when I called yesterday. I closed my eyes, exhausted and stressed and unsure of how to respond.

"OK," I said gently. "I think seeing a doctor is important. Check to see if something is making you sleepy. And sad."

"I just stare at the wall," she told me and I winced.

"I know," I soothed after taking a breath. "So maybe someone can help so everything isn't so hard. Would you like me to make the appointment?"

"No," she refused. "I can do it. I can try to do it."

I hung up and drove home deep in thought. She has friends - lots of lots of them, actually - and I don't truly count myself among that group. She's a lovely person, but we don't click - she doesn't think I'm funny, has an aversion to dogs and scoffs at my dedication to my work. She never fails to complain about something at restaurants, is always perfectly put together and is pretty blunt and aggressive. So our relationship has been friendly, but professional.

"I'm better today," she told me quietly before we ducked into an empty conference room to talk. "I wasn't sure how long it would last, but I do feel better today."

"Good," I said, sincerely pleased that she had on make-up and had replaced troublesome jeans and sneakers with a slim skirt and high heels. "I'm very glad to see you."

"Katie?" she asked and I pulled a chair from the large table and sat, waiting for her to pull a chair close and lean toward me. "I don't know what to do," she admitted and I nodded.

"For me," I began for that's the only way I'm good at explaining this to people, "it was very hard to get help. I had a Friend - capital F - that held my hand and helped me get better. She kept asking if I'd seen a doctor. She offered to go with me. She filled my prescription while I stood next to her a died a little inside. It was hard," I remembered, feeling my stomach clench and heart beat faster in remembered fear. "But it does get better. And you can have help. It's OK," I stressed, "to need help."

"You got help," she clarified, eyes serious and sad.

"I got help," I confirmed. "It didn't change me," I offered, trying to remember how desperately afraid I'd been to tell the doctor and fill the prescription and swallow that first tablet. "It just made life less hard. I could get out of bed. Take a shower. Get dressed. Talk to people. I started sleeping less. I could show up places I was supposed to be. Do work I'd meant to do. Feel hopeful and amused and happy again."

She nodded and I reached for her hand, squeezing it briefly before letting go and tangling my fingers with a brief prayer that I could articulate something - anything - valuable. "I know it's hard," I whispered simply. "And if you need me to do this for you - make the appointment, drive you there, wait outside to bring you home - I would do that without hesitation."

"I took a quiz online," she admitted. "It said I was severe." I nodded, keeping my eyes steady and calm while I waited for her to finish. "I don't want to be severe," she whispered, tears filling her eyes before spilling over.

"I know," I whispered in reply, feeling miserably guilty that I waited this long to help her. Desperately sad that she'd suffered without anyone to intervene. I wished Friend were here and tried to figure out what she'd advise.

We go from here, I realized and relaxed. This is what it is and there are choices.

"You don't have to stay severe," I said. "I don't know if the answer is medication or therapy or a lifestyle change. But I got better. You'll get better."

"But it will happen again," she protested and I shook my head encouragingly.

"It doesn't have to be as bad," I promised. "You can get help. I will help you."

"I have friends," she said a bit defensively. "They'd come if I asked."

"Of course," I agreed immediately. "And you can call them if that helps. But I'm here. In the office in the corner. And while I'm busy, I think this is - you are - very important. And you don't have to suffer like this."

"I think I can call the doctor," she said and I nodded.

"I'm going to check tomorrow," I warned her. "Because I care and I want you to be well. But if I get annoying or you want me to back off, you can tell me. That's OK."

She smiled, a weak but genuine curve of her lips, and I patted her shoulder as I got up. I left her in the quiet conference room, glancing back down the hallway to watch her walk slowly to her desk. Worried, I nonetheless forced myself to give her time to consider her options. Getting help is not an easy step for some of us. Taking a pill doesn't instantly solve all problems and climbing out of a hole is unpleasant.

I thought some more as I halfheartedly listened to a conference call in my office, wondering how I felt about sharing my closely-guarded secret with a colleague and my boss. Honestly, I'd rather it have remained a secret. I'd like to think I'm not ashamed of having a depressive disorder. Of taking medication to remain functional. But I think I am to some extent - I don't want it to color people's opinions of me. Alter my career's trajectory. Hell, I walked away from academic research because depression had so obviously tainted my reputation and have worked very hard to avoid that in Industry.

It was necessary, I decided. To be vulnerable, one must feel safe. And if I need to disclose my struggle to help someone, I'm willing to do that and accept any consequences. I should have seen it sooner. Handled it better. But I'm aware now and have it on my radar, marked as 'must follow up.' And we'll keep going from here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Loss of Empathy

"Do you have a doctor?" she asked quietly and I glanced up from the screen of my laptop to look at her.

"I do," I answered, returning my attention to the project she was supposed to do but didn't do so now I had to do. I was frustrated. Openly annoyed and brisk in any responses because of it. She's just impossible, I fumed. Never putting forth effort. Complaining about everything. Being generally slow and blank and just taking up space when she bothers to show up.

And as if I finally heard the thoughts for what they were, I stopped typing and looked up. I closed my laptop and took a breath before offering the name of my GP, watching as she slowly wrote the words on a clean sheet of notebook paper. "Would you like her number?" I asked gently and opened a drawer to search through my stack of business cards when she nodded wordlessly.

"There's something wrong," she said and I nodded, twisting my hands in horrified dismay that I'd let her suffer for so long. Not that I believe I control such things, of course, but letting someone fall deeper into a hole while I could have at least peeked down to make sure she was OK.

"Is it just work?" I asked gently.

"Yes," she replied. "Well, no," she revised her answer. "I guess it's everything. I think. I don't really know."

"I know," I said and opened my mouth to stop her when she walked from my office, saying she needed to go home.

"I'm sorry," she as she left and I shook my head.

"It's fine - you're fine," I assured her. "Go home. Take a bath. Read a book."

I sat still when she left, wincing when I remembered how I glared when she wouldn't pay attention. I complained when she didn't contribute. Sighed heavily when she showed up late, left early and skipped meetings completely.

"Hey," I greeted Adam when he answered. "I believe she's depressed. And I want you to lay off." I waited for him to respond and frowned when he didn't. I weighed my desire to have my colleagues remain ignorant of my medicated status and struggle with a mood disorder and took a deep breath before continuing.

"It doesn't turn on and off like that for me," I said, swallowing hard and glad this was a phone conversation and not one in person. "But the inability to engage is similar to how I am when I'm depressed. It's like everything is moving too fast. Everyone wants far too much. And I can't. I don't fully understand why, but there's this intense knowledge that I can't. And when I looked at her today, I realized she can't either."

"OK," he said after a moment.

"And the frustration is normal, too," I told him. "It's easy to get angry because you want to feel something - when you know the way you're reacting isn't how you always have. I got defensive because I knew I was sabotaging everything I cared about but I couldn't fix it. Every attempt that someone made to help felt like an attack. And all I could do was hope it passed. That tomorrow would be better. And when it wasn't, the effort of even seeing people was tortuously exhausting."

"I told her to see a doctor," he said. "A long time ago, actually."

"I gave her my doctor's name when she asked," I replied. I nodded when he said his hasn't been accepting new patients. "That was probably very discouraging," I told him. "When you reach out for help and someone refuses, it's easier to just slip into despair. Nobody cares enough. She needs to see someone - decide if medication might work or if talking it out would be better. And you need to give her time to figure this out."

He started to ask another question but I waved at the person waiting outside my closed door. "I need to go," I told Adam. "I'll call later, but do not scold her again right now. We need to help."

I called him later and he said he'd talked to her. I called her and was unsurprised when I was directed to voicemail, offering that I was around and available if she needed anything at all.

What she needed, I told myself, was someone to notice that she'd stopped wearing make-up. That she wasn't trying harder because it seemed impossible rather than she decided not to. And even as I feel awful about this, I'm struck by how shocked I am that I missed something so obvious. That in the absence of my own suffering, I was selfish enough to disregard obvious signs.

I wish there were a neat conclusion here. I hope that eventually there will be. But for tonight, I just feel sad. And guilty. But mostly sad.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

By Request: Polar Bear Play Date

I received emails (!!!) and a couple of them contained post topics that I pounced upon as my sleepy attempts at drafting anything this week are unlikely to see the 'publish post' button clicked.

The polar bear posts - for those of you who haven't read or have forgotten them - were my cutesy attempt at telling a sensitive work story without being blatantly obvious (just fairly obvious) about details. Yet I enjoyed writing them and, looking back, think they are a bit adorable. So I'll try another one since there was a bit of a play date in the polar bear pen last week.

Since moving to my new habitat, I feel like I have the big blue ball. And it's pretty awesome. It's very bouncy and I can bat it around with my paws. It has sparkles and I'm drawn to it - sometimes when I should be sleeping - because playing is just so much fun. I keep it in my corner, but carry it often to show it to other people. When I forget it, I describe it to the other animals so they can be suitably impressed by my good fortune. The other bears in my habitat have toys of their own, also happy to show them off when I trot around the corner with my pretty blue ball.

It happened our toys had not escaped the attention of the other animals since we show them off so often. It was suggested that we have a play date and invite the most important of our friends to learn more about what made my blue ball (and the other toys) so special. Since I am the fondest of my possession, I was assigned the process and happily set about devising the best way to impress people. I selected the time and waited impatiently for everyone to arrive as I sat on one side of the habitat, blue ball clutched protectively in my furry arms against my white belly. I glanced down to see Pretty Hair straightening her floppy pink bow and Best rubbing his paw against a small stain on his bright green bucket. Sibling walked in with her own ball, a smaller one in cheerful red, held carefully between her paws. We waited in a row, most prized possessions ready for their upcoming display, and smiled when a small herd of caribou pranced inside, bowed their antlered heads in greeting and found an area to graze.

The wolves arrived next, leaving only the alpha male to represent the pack after a quick trot around our pen. A strong presence, he quickly glanced at our toys, saying nothing but remaining sharp and aware until the walrus lumbered in, taking a seat on the most comfortable of our boulders and regarding us with serious eyes. I was directly across from him and he stared at me for a moment, peering at the ball held against my tummy and I smiled at him before holding it between my paws so it was more clearly visible. He nodded at me in approval before directing his attention to Adam and nodding. We were to begin.

"Welcome to our play date," Adam said, voice commanding attention as the caribou and wolf followed the walrus's lead to focus on us bears. "We've worked to clean our habitat and appreciate you taking the time to visit. We'd like to tell you about our toys - let you ask questions and offer suggestions on how we might have the most fun with them - and Katie will start with her big blue ball."

Taking a moment to glance down, I took a breath and started to speak, waving my paw for emphasis even as I clutched the ball tightly against my body with one arm. I have worked for this ball - discarding others that were not bouncy enough or an unpleasant color. I sacrifice a lot to make sure my ball is as perfect as possible and was pleased to answer questions and argue points as people treated me and my beloved toy with proper respect.

"What do you think?" The walrus asked a caribou just after an owl fluttered in to take the spot next to her. When I turned to smile at the owl, I noticed a weasel sitting at the table and wondered when he'd found a tunnel to sneak in.

"Walrus," she replied thoughtfully, "I like the way the bounces when Katie chases it. That's interesting to watch, especially when it goes in the water and she splashes after it. But I think the color is a bit odd."

"Yes," agreed another caribou, looking at my toy with an oddly disapproving expression. "It's not the best color."

I growled before I could help myself, for I had considered and discarded various shades of blue before selecting the one which I prized and held before me. Glaring at the caribou, I paused when their new leader said he was rather fond of the color.

"Thank you," I said, holding the ball out for him to see more closely and he took it carefully, before smiling at me and handing it back.

"I think we should all have bells," the weasel chirped without being asked. "People like bells. I think bells are nice." When everyone turned to look at him with various degrees of hostility and bewilderment. "They make noise," he said, happy to have all the attention. "That ball doesn't make any sounds at all."

"That weasel is stupid," I said before I could help myself and the wolf bared his teeth in a quick but genuine grin before saying he thought my ball was mostly wonderful.

"It's totally wonderful," I insisted and the walrus took a moment to nod at me before asking Best to describe his bucket.

"If you put it in the pool, you can carry water around with you," he explained, settling the toy so everyone could see it. "But I also think Katie's ball is very nice."

"Could you put a bell on it?" the weasel asked curiously, leaning closer to look at the handle before Best yanked it away.

"What? No," he replied. "No bells,"

"People like bells," the weasel reminded us. "They ring."

"Could we think about a bell?" Walrus asked and I turned to regard him with horror. "Not at the expense of the ball or bucket or bow," he tried to soothe. "But maybe a bell would be nice."

"Bells have been done!" I said. "The bears down the street have all sorts of bells and whistles and while I know they make noise," I said before the weasel could interrupt me, "they are no substitute for toys that bounce and carry water around!" I motioned a paw toward Best's bucket, accidentally hitting Adam on the leg. "Sorry," I mumbled, patting him to make sure my claws hadn't scratched him.

"This was interesting," Walrus said when we were finished. "I'd like to spend more time on this soon - the toys are very important to all of us."

"Excellent work," the leader of the caribou said kindly and I took a moment to admire his antlers.

"I'd like to pick a theme for the toys," the wolf said, eyes predatory as he glanced over our items. Adam moved forward to protect them and said we could have a discussion about themes. But our toys were unlikely to change. The wolf nodded before sitting regally once again, biding his time.

"Bells?" asked the weasel before the walrus dismissed us with orders to continue to play hard.

"They're good toys," Adam said after everyone departed and the habitat was ours once again. "And you're good bears." I nodded thoughtfully before tossing my ball to watch it bounce happily toward the water, glancing at Adam to make sure were were finished before scampering off to chase it once again.

Monday, November 02, 2009


How High?
"I'm going offsite all day," I mentioned to BigDeal last week. He'd asked me to attend a meeting that was in the middle of a day-long focus group I planned to attend and I asked very politely if I might call in to a meeting rather than making the trek back to be physically present.

"I'd like you here," he replied. "Fifteen minutes early?"

"Of course," I answered promptly, for there is no other choice. When the BigDeals of Industry make requests, they are met. And so I left my other meeting at its peak productivity and drove back to campus, entering a building and making my way to the waiting area.

After announcing myself, I perched on a chair and finally picked up a magazine detailing Industry's charitable contributions (I do payroll deductions and am matched 100%. I enjoy this.) while I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Yet while this once would have made me furiously impatient, I found myself remarkably unmoved.

I understand the infrastructure, I thought. He is the leader and I am to wait until I'm spoken to. And - given that I'm paid well and get to do something I enjoy - I'm actually reasonably OK with that. I was eventually summoned and sat in a different chair to answer questions for which I'd prepped extensively. Then - for revealing reasons - we decided to postpone the major meeting.

Forty minutes later, I returned to my car and departed for my original meeting location, having lost upwards of an hour of productivity in order to accomplish exactly nothing. I realized upon reclaiming my chair at the crowded table that the discussion I left was to prepare for another meeting with a different BigDeal. So I smiled and realized I'm growing more tolerant. This is what I do.

Imaginary Counts.
"Is everything OK?" a technician asked very early this morning. I blinked at him, dragging my attention from my laptop screen to smile and nod.

"Yes," I replied. "We're fine in here." I glanced around the room, coffee warming on a cart in the corner next to pastries and fresh fruit. Crystal dishes were filled with peppermints and sparkled cheerfully at strategic points around the large table. There were pens and paper, tape and paperclips, markers and post-its.

I blushed when he looked around the room, looking confused. While I was noticing the amenities and recalling my affection for Starlight Mints, he was noticing the room was completely empty - nary a person other than myself had occupied the space.

"My imaginary friends very much appreciate you stopping to check on us," I continued after shrugging and deciding I was unable to save myself from saying "we" when it was clearly just "me." And he laughed and laughed. He left and I looked around at the empty chairs, shaking my head at myself.

Yay! (!!!)
Thank you for the emails! After zero last night, I was a little embarrassed about my plea for communication. But I came home to far more than I expected this evening and it made me ever so happy. I'm exhausted (already in bed - feeling better but am still So Ridiculously Tired) so I'll reply to your wonderful, lovely, fabulous messages within the next few days. But I wish you all Care Bear cuddles in the meantime. Thank you.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fabulous Prizes

A four year blogiversary (November 13, 2009 - let the excitement begin) seems rather inauspicious. But if you want to think of it as a Big Deal (which I do), you could say that it's how long important things take - high school, college, grad school, post-doc (if I add a bonus year for pure misery suffered during the three actual years). So as November 13 approaches, I'm wanted to give something away. I knew what the prize was, but couldn't figure out how to select two lucky winners.

Fortunately, I've been deathly ill for a couple of weeks and decided on a strategy while I was willing myself to sleep more! Sometimes things just work out.

So here's the deal. I like email - I would like to get more of it. Some of my most meaningful posts have been written in response to lovely correspondence or requests for advice. Therefore, writing me an email earns you a chance to win a fabulous prize package. There are no requirements for length or content. You just have to send some private communication.

Now I clap happily and tell you what you'll win! (!!!) I have put a great deal of thought into the Katie @ Home Package and it's turned out to be rather wonderful. I would totally want it myself, probably because it's made of up things that remind me of me.

Something Apple-y - We begin with a tiny iPod shuffle since I couldn't bring myself to ever part with Nick, the laptop on whom a vast majority of blog posts have been written. However, a lovely iPod filled with music you can overwrite with my blessing is not a terrible substitute! Oh, and it's silver - don't get greedy.

Bathtime - One of my favorite Lush products - A French Kiss - is totally luxurious and bubbly and wonderful. You may have it if you win. (I also really love Pop in the Bath but I'm out of them. Sorry.)

Non-Germy - Since I seem to write most often when I'm suffering from some malady or other, I'm sending my favorite anti-bacterial soap. I hope the stupid stuff works better at protecting you from disease than it has for me. But at least it smells very nice.

AM Appreciation! - What else do I do at home? I have one cup of coffee every morning while checking Google Reader and skimming Site Meter! So I will send a box of your choice - the ground seasonal blend (Pumpkin Spice!) or a whole bean breakfast blend.

Bedtime - This last one gave me no end of problems as I pondered it. I sleep. I love (love, love) sleeping. But a pillow is too big. Blanket too bulky. How do I share my pure and enduring affection for being in bed? And then it came to me in a rush of sunshine and rainbows. Bedtime Bear! Suitable for cuddles while curled up on a couch or in bed, he's sweet and soft and sleepy. And he's a Care Bear! A Care Bear, people! I'm rarely stunned by my genius, but this time I was amazed at how cool I am.

I would assign a monetary value to these fabulous prizes, but, frankly, Bedtime Bear pretty much makes it invaluable. With his little heart nose and little heart on his tushie and little hearts on his paws. Let's face it - if you don't want Bedtime Bear, we probably shouldn't exchange emails anyway.

I have another group of gifts in mind. Katie @ Work will be revealed next week as I finish deciding what to include and how to win it. In the meantime, you have until Friday to send email. I will reply to everyone and select a random winner next weekend.