Saturday, January 31, 2009

Verb Usage

To Recover
"Good morning," I rolled over to greet Chienne this morning as I slowly emerged from sleep. Instead of the slow, sad blink she has offered the past few days, I ended up with arms full of wriggling canine while she placed kisses on my nose and chin.

"Oh," I offered, nuzzling closer and beginning to cry a little even as I tried to keep her tongue out of my mouth. "There's my girl." I smoothed her coat and told her I loved her and realized I missed this. While it's sometimes annoying - being tackled by an exuberant dog when I've just awakened - it was one of those moments that struck me as completely lovely after being absent for several days.

She pranced when I returned from work and shopping this afternoon. She carried a ball to me - I don't get to throw it, but I may look at it while she keeps it proudly between her teeth. I think she's feeling much better.

To Adapt
"I don't mind," I've always said of being tested on our equipment, "but I don't particularly like it." But as demands grow increasingly intense and I find myself walking through dimly lit hallways late at night or over weekends more and more often, I'm increasingly content to play guinea pig.

"You are OK?" I nodded in response to my European colleague's question, realizing that I had also grown used to the cadence of her speech. It no longer took me a moment to mentally replay a sentence to fully understand it.

As I shifted in the dim light during testing, finding a comfortable position and reminding myself to relax, I realized that I underestimate the capability of me and mine. Chienne will eventually go blind in her right eye and be completely unable to see. I will at some point get pushed past my breaking point at work. But both of us will make adjustments and adapt to our new circumstances.

To Select
"You do not mind?" I shook my head in response to her question, inviting her again to join me at Target after we grabbed lunch. We'd finished our work and I'd make a quick call to Adam to offer firm suggestions of what needed to happen to make work more bearable for our team. He's been out of the office and people are taking shameless advantage. I have decided I do not approve. Though, as always, I felt better after speaking with him.

"It's pretty much like all the others," I offered when she said she hadn't been there before.

"I've never been to them either," she explained, making me blink at her in surprise, pausing in my quest to obtain a bright red cart. At lunch, she spoke of her longing for the sea, the lack of chain restaurants in her region at home and how America was different than Italy. Yet it still surprised me that she would walk through Target for the first time. I quickly altered my 'grab Diet Coke, dog and cat food and head home' to meander through aisles as she explored.

"They have everything," she breathed as we stopped almost immediately to look at candles. She exclaimed over the sizes and colors and scents, all available and aligned neatly on shelves. I nodded, attempting to look suitably impressed while she showed me all the choices. We repeated the experiment in bedding - she found a new comforter after I reminded her of how we name bed sizes. (I don't know why twin is the smallest. I suppose it should fit two people. Technically, depending on the position of the pair, it actually would.) Then again in luggage - we evaluated carry-ons and backpacks. And once more in bedding when we returned to make absolutely sure she had what she wanted.

Thinking her adorable, I pushed the cart containing my dog and cat food, Diet Coke and new suitcase while she carried her new bedclothes and a small bag with candles inside. She reached to kiss my cheek before we parted, telling me to pass the gesture along to my puppy. While I took this job based on location, salary and opportunity, I'll reiterate that I did beautifully with colleagues.

To Repeat
Remember Pete? Of the 'told me I couldn't defend mere weeks before my defense date even though I had job offers and was ready to leave' fame?

He did it again.

Despite my warnings, students seem to think such a thing couldn't happen to them. A former group member put that waste of a human being on her committee and rather than calling it off early, he decided her work wasn't good enough and convinced the committee to fail her at her presentation. Which leaves me utterly disgusted with all of them.

Knowing that he feels justified in these actions leaves me furious. This asshole must be stopped and while considerable thought leaves me unable to devise a suitable plan, I may see him in a couple of weeks while I travel on business. Let the plotting commence.

To Blog
When I was small, I had a plastic cup with a cartoon of some sort printed on the side. I would carefully drink my milk or juice from said cup while I sat at Grandma's sunny kitchen table, often watching the squirrels balance on the wires near the alley. If I grew bored of the bushy-tailed creatures, I would examine the image on my cup, noticing that the character - who was also sitting at a table with his own cup - had the same picture as I did on his own cup. Therefore, with the proper resolution, I assumed that the picture on the character's cup also contained another cup with another picture of another cup. And now - if you followed that - I totally blew your mind. (If you didn't, you'll have to trust me.)

A glimpse into the infinite is at once fascinating and boring. For I sat and stared at that cup for long moments, wondering what stopped a loop from looping and how many characters could continue to have cups with the same pictures on the sides. But when Grandma and I sat to talk about it, the conversation at some point comes to "Yes, Katie. That would be a lot of cups, sweetheart." And there you have it.

So goes, for me, any discussion of writing online. I do more than my fair share of blogging about blogging - and have put additional thought into the concept while I wasn't actively writing and in the week I've been back - but, once finished, I look around, beaming with pride and announce, "I noticed that! Aren't I observant and sensitive and clever?!" And some of you are kind enough to smile at me and reply, "Yes, Katie. But it's all rather obvious, sweetheart." Then I give us all a break and toddle off for a nap.

The one message I will reiterate is that being away made me recognize what a source of comfort and support is available here. I very much appreciate the comments and emails and gift card (from ScienceWoman and Princess Pup - totally made me cry) while Chienne and I struggled through this week. When I heard about Pete and remembered how I tentatively started posting years ago and think about how much I've learned from and grown to love many of you, the awe I feel is not unlike staring into the infinite on the side of a plastic cup.

In a good way. In case that wasn't clear.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Dear BlogFriends,

I cried when I dropped her off this morning. She looked over her shoulder at me while trotting back with the tech. I called every hour, worry warring with the intense requests coming from all angles. For once, I didn't care about the Absolutely Urgent and Earth-Shatteringly Important Issues (!!!!!).

She whimpered with every bump we hit on the way home, resting a paw on my leg as I kept one hand on her back.

I coaxed her into her chair, fretting when she'd restlessly move about, only to droop until she was resting wherever she was. She stood with only her head out the dog door until I walked over and offered to go outside with her.

We slept - both of our heads hurting - and I woke at 11. She followed me downstairs so I scrambled her an egg and was pleased when she ate. She's since gone back to bed and I'm attempting to handle some of these critical issues.

Thank you for the your comments and concern. The reminder of mortality is rarely a pleasant one and I don't know what I'll do when I eventually lose her. It was a rough day today and I expect tomorrow will be a bit uncomfortable as well. But we'll stay here in our comfortable house and mostly ignore the world as she heals.

Love, Katie

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not OK at all.

“OK,” I smiled before I shrugged into my coat and waved to the group congregated in a room at work. “I should be back in an hour or two. Call if you need me.”

“Hi, pretty girl,” I greeted Chienne when I walked in. We spent a restless night and I woke with a headache. She stayed in bed while I got ready, picking up her head to show me her open but very cloudy eye. I dutifully called when the vet opened, though I did so from work.

“OK,” I said with resignation when they told me 11:30 was their only opening though I asked for something a bit later. “I’ll be there.”

We walked in a bit early and were ushered to a small exam room. I sighed while the vet clucked and hummed and wasn’t fazed when he said he was ‘very concerned’ about the eye. He seems ‘very concerned’ about most things.

“OK,” I blinked at him and replied with my oft-used word when he told me to go immediately to the eye clinic.

“OK,” I said, forehead creasing with worry when he said it was glaucoma. The pressure was far too high, he told me.

“OK,” I said, feeling heavy with guilt and sorrow when he told me the left eye was blind and the condition was likely permanent.

“OK,” I whispered when he noted it would likely need surgical attention. They’d try medication first but by the time most of these cases are caught, it’s too late to do much in the way of prevention.

“OK,” I replied, my response barely audible, when he said there was a good chance it would affect the other eye as well. That pressure was elevated there too, though not as dramatically as the left.

“It’s not life threatening,” I stated, for the alternative was simply unacceptable. I’d taken in all the other information, uttering those same two syllables as I acknowledged that I understood. The vet touched my shoulder and confirmed that she would be fine and with a single nod of thanks, we sped across town to the clinic that was awaiting our arrival.

Her eye glowed green in another exam room, lights extinguished while a thin beam of light illuminated it. The specialist stared as he shifted, moving to his counter to change instruments so he could look some more.

“There’s no vision,” he said gently, regarding me kindly as I stood with tear-stained face and trembling hands pressed to Chienne’s coat.

“In either eye?” I asked, horrified, and he quickly shook his head. He explained pressures and chances of recovering vision and his tech began to administer drops and shots and some goo that would dehydrate her.

“I don’t want to leave her,” I insisted when he offered to keep her for observation and brought her home to put in drops and deprive her of water myself. We returned a few hours later and he noted some improvement. “It’s a blind eye,” he said, not unkindly. Then he outlined plans to put her under anesthesia and inject some antibiotic to reduce the ability of eye to create so much pressure. We have it scheduled for tomorrow.

“OK,” I said, looking up at him as I sat on the floor with my dog. We went outside and I looked into her one brown eye, the other cloudy and useless beside it. I was unable to blink back tears as I pressed a kiss to her brindled head while I whimpered words of love and apologies. She's across the room, more drops administered and pain medication swallowed, asleep in her chair. Conversely, I keep wiping at tears while I write of how I failed my precious puppy. But she had me for today - I never did make it back to work.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


"Oh, no," I murmured, interrupting Chienne's joyful greetings by dropping to my knees before her. "It's worse, isn't it?"

I peered at her right eye much as I did this morning. Then I was concerned because it looked cloudy. In my spare moments, I fretted over it during the day. But my desire to check on my favorite creature in the world warred with pressure to get more done. So I left work as it neared 9PM and, some 12 hours after I left her, realized her eye health had gone in the wrong direction.

"We used to be best friends," I told Joe while we worked extra hours yesterday. "Now we rarely take walks - maybe once a weekend - and I go home to deal with email and work I didn't finish then I sleep. No walks, not much playing. She just curls up beside me in bed and across the room in her chair when I work."

"She's an abandoned child," he teased me and I smiled sadly. Seeing the cloud of guilt surround me, he patted my knee reassuringly. "She's fine," he said firmly. And I nodded.

But she's not fine. Her eye is sick. And I don't really have time to help her until tomorrow afternoon.

I apologized profusely, stroking her head while soaking her eye with a wet cloth as Friend gently instructed me to do when I typed a frantic message to her. Chienne promptly became pitiful, enjoying the extra attention since she normally gets so little.

I feel terrible, ridden with guilt and remorse. So I'll call the vet first thing tomorrow - responsibilities be damned - and see when she can go in.

At which point I can start worrying over who is doing this critical tasks that I had been assigned for tomorrow. So while it doesn't really bother me to wear satin panties - not out of the desire to entice or impress but because nothing else is clean - and I'm OK with the general clutter that exists around me, this particular neglect has me positively sick of myself.

I'll update you on the poor, poor girl tomorrow. For now, she's resting at the foot of the bed amidst all my covers. Because she deserves them and, in other areas, I've clearly let her down.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I trembled with fury.

I looked down at my hands as they rested on the keys of my work PC, squinted my eyes into a vicious glare and seethed.


“I applied for your job,” Fred offered last week. I glanced up from the monitor and blinked at him as I paused from our data collection. He’s 15 or so years older than I am, bright and very friendly. Considering his greater experience, I wasn’t sure how to respond to such a statement.

I settled on, “Oh?”

“I didn’t get it, obviously,” he noted and I nodded. He’s a level below my position on the organizational chart, though we are on different branches. Given that I often feel inadequate, I cocked my head and asked if he knew why he hadn't been offered my spot. “I’m too laid back,” he replied.

“I am intense,” I noted thoughtfully.


“I’m sorry to ruin your meeting,” Elegant noted when she stopped by my office, perfectly curled hair swinging about her shoulders.

“You didn’t,” I assured her, swiveling to face her when she arranged herself in one of my chairs.

“But this whole situation is ridiculous,” she sighed, tapping the toe of one fabulous boot. I frowned with envy and tucked my feet, clad in sensible flats, under my chair. “This project has to be done and it wouldn’t take long and he,” she aimed a glare toward Adam’s office, “won’t make them work on it!”

“I know,” I nodded sympathetically.

“You stayed calm,” she said almost accusingly, for I’m usually in complete agreement with her complaints, chiming in while we both gesture wildly and rail against the establishment.

“If my project doesn’t get in,” I said with a smile, “there will be tantrums unlike you’ve ever seen.” She nodded approvingly and we moved to fetch tea to soothe our nerves.

“My head hurts,” I noted as we walked, having been shaking tablets out of the bottle in my desk drawer every four hours to cope. She agreed and we discussed the merits of Excedrin versus Tylenol.

“We care too much,” she decided as we pondered mint versus…well, non-mint. (I always drink mint - I'm not even sure what's in the bins that aren't green.) When I looked at her with my inquisitive expression, she elaborated. “People who don’t mind disappointing people, who don’t really follow up, who are relaxed about the job when they go home – they don’t get headaches. They don’t work 16 hour days. But we suffer.”


“Passionate,” Fred agreed with my assessment.

“I suppose we all are,” I declared after a moment’s thought. Adam enjoys dramatic gestures and is entertained by my frequent rants. He encourages disagreements and fighting over resources. While we get along very well as a group, we also care. It’s not infrequent to say goodnight to a colleague as it nears 9PM. I’m not surprised to get immediate replies to emails I send at 5:30AM. We finished a call to Asia – all of us gathered around Adam’s desk – at 7:30 the other evening, each of us sagging in our chairs as we took notes and assigned tasks to support that team.


So while I would like to physically hurt anyone who writes emails to me with ‘demands’ in all capital letters, I took deep breaths and forced myself not to respond to the bothersome email. I complained bitterly to a friend, cleaned a bit and returned to my laptop. When someone complains about my performance when I’ve put considerable time and effort into being helpful – forsaking other tasks to do so – I’m not mildly annoyed. I’m viciously furious.

In the end though, I love my job. I value my colleagues and am already doggedly loyal to Industry. So I wrote a civil email indicated that email-sender was ‘unbearably condescending and should carefully consider the tone of future correspondence.’ Then I went to work and focused on refining and revising the information he sought.

I considered the intensity of my moods as I slowly moved across the parking lot toward my car, the clicking of my heels on the pavement the only sound I heard. For now, I can’t quite tell how effective I am. But I do know it matters.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Close Enough

Being Away
Since I started writing here, I have posted when sick and sad, home and away, of triumphs and miserable defeats. I'll be honest - the first week without writing left me alternately aching and twitchy. Like most prone to addiction, I missed this and needed it. Yet after several days, I paused one night after hopping around my basement in my imitation of working out and thought it was an odd relief. I wasn't wondering if I'd stated something incorrectly or made someone think badly of me. I could, I thought with no small amount of surprise, stop blogging altogether.

Coming Back
In addition to aerobics, I added a devotional to my daily routine. I rather like the Upper Room. With a vague memory of carefully reading the tiny booklets Grandma brought home from church each month, I traded in my former bookmark for a place that struck me as overly conservative. I find reading the simple stories comforting as I sip coffee and resign myself to driving to work before the sun lights the sky. A couple days ago, there was a message about coming home. About the thrill and sense of rightness that one feels upon returning from a lengthy trip and the anticipation of being welcomed by God upon the end of one's journey here. While it is easy to be distracted from my priorities and purpose, I've found putting some thought into how I spend my time is valuable. Though I know it sounds ridiculous, there was a glimmer of giddy homecoming when I clicked the blue button on the Blogger dashboard that lets me begin a new post.

Catching Up
"You have a beautiful laugh," a colleague told me and I blinked at her, completely distracted from the request I'd come to make, before my lips curved bashfully. Not knowing how to respond, I shrugged. The woman who sits near my office but had never spoken to me before smiled. "I hear you sometimes," she confided, "when someone goes in to talk to you or you're on the phone. And I always smile - no matter what I'm doing - when you laugh." I finally thanked her and wondered if I was being too loud. But the glow of the lovely compliment lingered, reminding me that there are countless moments each day when I giggle and smile and feel lucky to work where I am with the people who surround me.

I spent my birthday weekend, for I am now age 30, with my parents and Little One. They invaded while I was still at work on Friday and created a happy sort of chaos during the days they spent here. We went out only once, spending several hours letting Little One play and bask in our complete attention. She returned to my house to play with Care Bears and Webkinz, diligently furnishing the online rooms of the latter and creating a makeshift jail for a members of the former gang who were being mean. We cuddled. Mom cooked. Dad fixed things. It was a rather lovely weekend. A fact which I continue to repeat in my mind when I think that I don't have a family of my own. And I'm thirty. This isn't what I would have expected when I was younger. But it is not all bad.

"I saw it," Boss wrote me in an email, making me cock my head in confusion, "and it's going to be wonderful." Still befuddled by the cryptic message from my post-doctoral mentor, I continued to sort through email, gasping with delight when I found one from the editor of the journal in which I always wanted to publish. A figure of mine had been selected for the cover. So in addition to the paper I wrote with Penguin and Dr. Icing on days that feel like they happened a lifetime ago, but are faithfully documented in the archives, I shall have a second piece of paper to frame and preen over. And it is, in fact, rather wonderful.

"Oh," I stopped just inside my office door earlier this week, greeted by a profusion of purple and white blooms draping happily from all sides of a pretty vase. The colleagues I so enjoy bought me birthday flowers a day after I'd treated them to cookies to celebrate the occasion. So each day I sit at my desk and answer emails, rush off to meetings or reach for a ringing phone, I breathe in and am cheered by the affection I've found in this space. Above the cut flowers, perched on a shelf that is closer to the light, my violet is in full and impressive bloom. I told a friend the story the other day - of Winnie and the loss of someone amazing, therapy and research into violet care and the eventual flowering of the beloved plant. "We're doing rather well," I told it the other day, speaking quietly in case anyone passed by.

I was excited to find my entry - like last year - made it past a tough crowd of judges (I know - I was one of them) and into Open Lab. When taken out of context, for I read a bunch of posts by people who aren't on my normal lists, I found it was often difficult to become engaged or amused. (My post, by the way, has been edited before final submission - I really like going back to text that's been published and reworking it. It's my favorite part of the Open Lab process.) Given the number of people who come and go, those who employ different styles of writing and topics to discuss, it seems trivial to me to just - should you desire something to read or someone to know - continue to click and skim until something strikes you as nice. If I don't like it - and I'm not shy about saying there's a ton of stuff I think it asinine - I won't read it.

That being said, I think there are people who are fascinating and funny which transitions neatly into the bloggy awards I collected while I wasn't writing. Psych Post Doc and Brigindo were both sweet enough to think of me when they followed the instuctions for recognition I think is truly lovely. It is therefore with some regret that I'm going to screw it up. I'm sorry! I'm bad with things like these - I tend to twist them and use them for my own purposes. So I put my comments in parentheses.

"This blog invests and believes the proximity - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. (Aw...) These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. (I like friends.) They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. (Oh. I also like prizes and self-aggrandizement. I'm already ruining it.) Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. (What a sweet thought.) Please give more attention to these writers! [Redacted rules I'm not going to follow] and include this cleverly-written text.”

There are a few reasons I started to blog - the one that has grown is this sense of friendship I feel for many of you. So for those that commented on my 'taking a break' post and those who are listed in the sidebar, I missed you!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Next Post in February

But I love my blog, I've thought several times in recent weeks. I grow clingy and desperate to keep writing the words that appear here and comfort myself by refusing the very thought. I don't need to stop.

I've spent some time quietly thinking and praying in that vague way of drifting through thoughts, spending time in God's presence rather than going through lists of gratitude or requests. And the thought returns - focus, prioritize, think. And while some people do that beautifully in an online space, I feel my attention is splintered between offering glimpses of what I find important and lovely and being vastly annoyed with those who are ruining blogging.

I am, if we're to be honest, no longer useful to this community. I'm glad I did a post-doc - I learned a tremendous amount and adored writing this blog. But I decided to walk away from academic research. So of discussions of publication or tenure, committee meetings and mentoring issues? I have memories and ideas, but nothing of real value to add. Instead, my loyalties have aligned neatly with the company that pays me. I think we do good work - important projects and products come from my colleagues. Through some blessing or stroke of luck+preparation, I'm in management. When faced with such a ridiculous and amazing fact, I think I can do better. And while I already work too much, I think writing here isn't really helping what I do there.

I have friends I love. I've talked to exactly none of them in the past months. Carrie had a baby. Friend went home and is job hunting. Elle is in a band. M may be moving. I've meant to arrange a weekend with Brazen Hussy and Repressed Librarian for freaking months now. Little One enjoys phone calls and has reached a point where I can actually understand what she's saying. Cousin tried to call but my cell wasn't charged. There are people at work who are bright and interesting and wonderful and I rarely spare an evening to go out with them. That's shameful - that I know these fascinating individuals and spend no time keeping up with them. So instead of selecting synonyms and thinking of cute titles, I'm going to make phone calls and hope my basic dislike of telephone conversations eases with time. (Or I'll make it through my list of friends and think 'thank God that's over.' Either way.)

My gorgeous house is rarely clean, though that's unlikely to change. My space is much like my poor brain - cluttered with too many bits and pieces. But I'd like to keep organizing items and give away what I don't need. I'd like to look into volunteering somewhere. I want to spend time in prayer, figuring out and doing what I ought and what I want and see where I land.

So, while blinking back melodramatic tears and vacuuming my first floor, I decided to take a month away. I'll still read and comment, of course. But you'll miss what was sure to be a moving and depressing post about how I'm turning thirty and likely how it's very cold here and how work is hard but rewarding and blah, blah, etc. Feel free to miss me a tiny bit, but I'll be back in a few weeks. Hopefully I'll have learned something and can tell you about it then.