Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quoteable Bullets

  • "No," I moaned when I drug myself out of bed at 5:30 this morning. Having had about 3 hours of sleep each of the past 3 nights, I am feeling rather exhausted.
  • "Do you have zinc oxide?" Mom asked when I called to check in. I immediately panicked because we use the cream for any kind of injury. Cuts, rashes, itches, burns - whatever goes wrong, we use zinc oxide. Chienne had pulled her over and drug her on the ground when they were on a walk. (The dog saw a bunny.)
  • "No," I answered promptly when someone asked if I was nostalgic when visiting my grad school campus recently. I don't miss it. I don't feel much of anything upon going back. Other than a bit of bewilderment that I once thought these people were so powerful and brilliant, it feels just like going to any other campus.
  • "Oh, you're OK," I sighed with relief upon coming home and seeing Mom. She's scraped and bruised, but not enormously injured. Her knees are fine. She's sore but moving normally. But I was very worried until I saw her.
  • "Wow," I breathed to myself as I returned to my hotel room one night. Someone asked me a question and my stomach cramped because I didn't know the answer. I opened my mouth to offer what little I knew and was astonished to realize I could answer every question and describe each detail. I have somehow picked up knowledge and can now share it!
  • "Wow," I said again, blinking at myself in the mirror. I've never worn mascara before, convinced it would be overdone and icky, but I have a nice new product that is subtle and lovely. I like mascara.
  • "Done," I nodded happily after I'd taken Mom to dinner, paid bills and updated my poor, neglected blog. And soon I sleep.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Katie's Family & The New Van

"Did they tell you they got a van?" Brother slurred when I finally reached him on his birthday. He didn't answer my initial call - made after I gasped when signing and dating a document and realizing I'd forgotten - and I was in a meeting when he got my message. So, on the way home from work around 10PM, I called and caught him at the bar.

"No!" I giggled. "Really?"

"Yeah," he laughed, sounding terribly adult with his deep voice and sounds of merriment in the background. "Dad found it on Craigslist."

"Dad loves Craigslist," I nodded.

"Seriously," he agreed. "He calls me about things he sees on Craigslist all the time. Anyway, they saw this van at a dealer somewhere, went over and Mom drove it. She said she liked it so they paid cash and brought it home. So now they have this bitchin' van."

"Bitchin'?" I confirmed and waited while he took a drink.

"It has that wood paneling," he offered and I laughed some more, turning left as I made my way home. "And ventian blinds!" he recalled. "But it is a pretty nice van, actually."

My parents called today - Mom to confirm that she was driving up to pet sit for me while I'm traveling for a couple days and Dad to apologize because he had to stay home with the van.

"That's fine, Daddy," I told him affectionately. "It is important to fix the air conditioning on the van."

"It's the Van of Awesomeness," he reported proudly and I laughed, thinking of my Wall and Barrier of Awesomeness. I wondered if we could use bright orange snow fence anywhere on our van and decided we probably couldn't. I took a sip of water when he told me they took it to garage sales with Aunt and Uncle. I choked on my water.

"Dad," I sighed. "You and Mom are taking your van to garage sales? Why?"

"We didn't know what we'd find," he replied happily. "And it's a good thing we did! We found a rug for the toy room!" They'd just installed wood floors throughout the house and wanted something soft for the floor. "It has blue and gold flowers on it," he told me. "I think it's from Japan or something."

"That's nice. And good that it fit in the van."

"Oh, we could have fit 50 of them in the van. The seats fold down! Your mom found a filing cabinet too."

"Cool," I replied, scolding Sprout when he began to nibble at the pine tree I just replanted.

I learned more about the van, asked how many cars Dad owned now (9, he thinks) and wondered if he was going to build another garage. I talked to the girls who had just arrived for the evening (Little One has more Webkinz - 14 now, she thinks) and Smallest One said 'Hi.' a lot (I didn't count how many times.)

"Tell Aunt Katie we'll bring the van to see her soon," Dad instructed his youngest granddaughter."

"Van, Katie!" Smallest One said.

"I heard, sweetheart!" I replied.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


"Can I come to your home?" she asked, brown eyes sad. I paused in my hurry toward my next meeting and turned to face her with concern.

"Of course," I replied, glancing around the corridor before focusing on TinyFriend again. "What's wrong?"

"Everything," she sighed and I reached to pat her arm. I told her to come when she was ready and I'd make something for dinner. I greeted her when she knocked at my office door about an hour later. "Can we go now?" she asked and I blinked with surprise, glancing at the three email windows I had open and winced at the two presentations and four spreadsheets that starred on my FW30 Tasks list.

"Of course," I replied again wondering what in the world had happened. "Let me shut down and pack up real quick." I tossed my computer and some notes in my Vera Bradley bag - which I do like very much - and slipped its bright blue strap over my shoulder. "Let's go," I whispered with a grin when I arrived at her cubicle.

We stopped at the store and bought ingredients for pasta. We cooked companionably - I watched with interest as she made carbonara as I worked on salad and bread.

"I know," I replied with a sad smile, glancing up from slicing a tomato when she told me she was going home. "Your family and boyfriend are there. I assume the local team made you a good offer. So it's back to Europe with you." I paused and handed her a Kleenex. "TinyFriend," I sighed. "We'll miss you very much, but it's good to do what's right for you."

"I am very sad to leave," she sniffled and I nodded, changing the subject to why she would be happy to return. It's all in the perspective for bittersweet situations.

I was cleaning the kitchen after she went home, rinsing plates and tucking them in the dishwasher and scrubbing pots and pans. Chienne and Sprout waited expectantly from either side of the open kitchen, hoping for leftovers to be tossed to the floor. I glanced around and realized I'm not looking to move on. For the first time in my life, I feel settled. I'm happy with this location. I adore my house and neighborhood. I am not waiting to move on to what's next - working on some 3 year plan of how to get out of here and do something else.

"I want that for you, TinyFriend," I told her the next day. "And I think you're both smart and brave for moving toward it."


He always speaks to me when we pass in the hall. We tend to agree on matters important and irrelevant in meetings we've both attended and my approval of his short tenure in my little corner of Industry has been noted by many of my colleagues. I think he's doing a good job. What's more, I like him.

"Shall I stay at my desk?" I replied to his email when he set up a web/teleconference for an upcoming meeting. "Or may I join you in your office?" I do enjoy my space - I've cleaned and reorganized and am quite content surrounded by my things - but I grow weary of speaking by phone.

"In person is always better," he responded immediately. "Please join me here."

"Happy to!" I typed quickly. "I just wanted to confirm that the teleconference wasn't a 'stay away' message."

"For you? Never." I grinned when I read his reply, smoothing my dress around my hips before adjusting the clip holding my hair back before moving toward his office - far larger than my own.

"Hi," I greeted the three men in the room. I introduced myself to the one I didn't know and smiled at Jacob before directing my attention to the man who began to speak. Jacob asked questions, pausing a couple of times to direct one to me. I stood when our discussion wound down, moving to follow the other visitors out Jacob's door. I paused to answer another of his questions, standing in front of his desk with my notebook held in one hand at my side.

Some thirty minutes later, I was seated across from him at a table in one corner of his office, both of us leaning forward and trading questions and answers, problems and potential solutions.

"Exactly!" I agreed, feeling myself tremble with happy excitement as we discussed stategy. "That's exactly what our team wants to do and we don't know exactly how to go about it!" He offered ideas, tilting his head back and closing his eyes and he sorted through and finally offered three options.

"I'm happy you're here," I told him when I later stood once more. "I think you'll be great and hope you'll let me know if I can help."

"Without question," he replied, nodding. "This was very enlightening and we will continue the discussion soon." My throat tingled. I felt myself blush. My stomach grew fluttery and I nodded giddily.

I wandered back to my office, remembering this sense of infatuation with someone. I was warm and happy and eager to see what came next. I blinked at myself and giggled. It wasn't Jacob - though he is rather sexy. I paused to admit that I have a crush on my job. And while there are components that are frustrating and annoying and very non-ideal, I'm blessed to feel challenged and excited and giddy about stategy discussions with people I like and respect.

So when Sibling and I finished a project after five hours at the office this morning and went downtown for lunch, I nodded when she confided that she hopes to be back on the east coast by FW1, 2011. "I'll miss you," I noted, "because I think you're very good at what you do. But I know you'll be happier there."

I paused for a moment before brightening. "I'm happy here," I told her. "And I'm not going anywhere."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I guess you had to be there.

Wry Amusement
I joined Facebook to keep track of my grad school friends. We scattered far and wide and it seemed wise to all keep our contact information in one place.

I added a few blog friends, which was fine but a little odd to explain. Most of my real life people aren't aware of the blog, nor do I want them to read it, so that'd be awkward.

Work people found me pretty quickly, but I enjoy them a great deal so I was happy to add them to my list of friends.

But now it's customers. Which is cool in the sense that they are smart, interesting, funny people, but odd in the sense that part of my job is to keep them happy. So when I added yet another one to my friends as I simultaneously took phone calls at 9:45PM, I thought there were no lines between personal and professional. If it's available, Industry wants it.

I grinned, turning my head to look at the distinctive sound of the screen door rolling open on its tracks. Mom and I were seated on the patio, talking about nothing memorable, and Smallest One – who is currently at the stage where every single action makes me want to scoop her up and snuggle because she’s Just That Adorable – toddled carefully across the threshold and down the small step.

“Close the door,” Dad reminded her from inside.

“No bugs,” she responded and he told her that was right. Closing the door kept the bugs from coming inside. Brow creased with focus on her task, she pushed the door to the left, beginning to turn as it slid closed easily. She paused, turning to face the door again when it hit the jam and slid open about an inch. Sighing dramatically, she took two steps toward the erstwhile door and pushed it firmly closed.

“Stay,” she told it firmly, pointing her finger at the screen for good measure. Then she grinned at me when I giggled in delight, puckering her tiny lips to receive kisses as she grew used to my habit of cuddling her close and telling her how wonderful she was.

Sheepish smile
Him: Where are you? Can we talk now?
Me: Customer call. Not so much.
Him: You are chatting with me while talking to customers?!
Me: Well, yes. That's the way I roll. (Aside: I am, by the way, writing this blog post while on a conference call. It is the way I roll.)
Him: Talk to you soon then? I get withdrawal symptoms if we don't speak at least once a day!
Me: I know! I miss you so much!! But I have been talking to your team. It's like one of you has to take Katie-duty while the rest get work done.
Him: It's because you make too much noise!
---Minutes pass while I let him wonder if I am Deeply Offended. I sometimes get Deeply Offended.---
Katie: But I have stuff to say!
Him: You definitely do. Are you still with customers?
Katie: No - we wrapped up. Why? Do you want to talk to me?!
Him: Of course.

I should close this with something approximating witty, but I'm exhausted. So I'll leave it at that and go to bed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Practice makes perfect.

You’d think I’d be better at it. Yet the situation continues to leave me breathless, chest tight and swallowing against nausea, each time it happens.

I was sitting in my college apartment when a roommate came home and perched on the edge of my mattress. She knew I’d been deeply infatuated with a certain student one year our senior. He was graduating as we wrapped up our junior year and, as I recall, she disrupted my packing for summer break upon entering my room.

I recall looking up at her, tucking a stray lock of hair behind my ear and tightening my ponytail as I shoved books in boxes and clothes in suitcases. I nodded, not speaking after she told me and returned my attention to what I was doing.

“Maybe they won’t go through with it,” I mumbled, terribly hurt but unsurprised that his girlfriend was wearing an engagement ring. “Plus, it’s not as though he was ever interested in me. It was a silly crush. And I’m over it.” Tossing random items in containers, I glanced up at her, noting her concern and sympathy and shrugged. “It’s fine,” I told her, maintaining eye contact this time. “Really. I’m fine.”

Yet I still remember curling into a loveseat in my tiny apartment in grad school, weeping bitterly over the pages of the college magazine that contained a tiny version of their wedding photo. “I’m happy for him,” I said out loud, gasping between sobs, head aching and chest tight. “I am happy for him,” I told myself after I’d calmed myself and showered, curling around a pillow in bed. “Even if he had liked me, we wouldn’t have been right. He’s a good guy and deserves to be happy. So why does this hurt so much?”

Yet it remained so – an awful sense of loss and defeat – and the stray thought would pop in my head. What if I’d allowed the back rub he suggested when we were studying together rather than firmly declining his request? If I were granted three wishes, one of them would be that he’d loved me. That I’d been able to experience emotions behind not only the ‘I really like you,’ portion of infatuation but also the ‘and you really like me back’ part as well. Knowing that I hadn’t, acknowledging that I wouldn’t, was rather excruciating.

I remember him now, the one I called Gabe in that series of posts, and feel a sort of bewilderment. I neither miss nor want him for my very own. I think he and his wife have three children now and I sincerely wish them every happiness. I simply don’t care enough to do otherwise.

The lovely thing about painful experiences when young is that if you’re unlucky enough to experience a similar incident in the future, you have a baseline. A sort of, “Yes. I remember that sucked but then it got better and now I’m completely fine. Stands to reason that this will go the same way. Delightful!” The first paper that was rejected was The Most Hideous Thing Ever. The third one was treated with a vague shrug and a quick choice of a more suitable journal. The first major mistake in Industry was greeted with my certainty that I’d be fired at any moment. The hundredth that I made last week was barely noticed. I was too busy to care.

So when a Facebook status I monitor occasionally shifted to 'engaged,' I cursed myself for looking. I’d been in love with him years ago. I had any number of hopes and daydreams that centered around him and the feelings I believed he had for me. I was crushed when it was revealed that it was never as I believe it to be. Yet, eventually, I came to view it as an extended crush – a rather odd episode with a rather good guy. My lingering curiosity over him – the stray thought that if I’d reacted differently when he invited me to visit or if I’d been less rabid when things ended so badly – was (pretty) easily dismissed.

Except, when faced with the fact that the failure in our interaction was mine – that the one who remains alone when the other happily moves on was me – left me completely still. Motionless and breathless as I tried to process the magnitude of pain. I finally closed my eyes and gently pushed the top of my laptop to meet the base. I put the computer aside, remaining seated as I tried to decide what would ease the misery.

“Oh, it hurts,” I murmured when I’d opened my mouth to insist to the empty room that I was fine. Shaking my head in denial of my reaction, I reached for the heavier of the two laptops beside me, burying myself in work and feeling profoundly grateful for the efficacy of distraction. Even when wanting to go home and see the girls, I panicked at the thought of having to think about my feelings. So I downloaded audiobooks (Sookie Stackhouse, C.S. Lewis and a collection of erotica. I believe this makes me interesting. I understand if you believe this means I’m painfully neurotic and conflicted.) so that I could remain distracted.

Yet after cuddling Little and Smallest Ones and marveling over how they’re growing and how beautiful and brilliant they both are, I took a nap. Tired after the early morning drive – Chienne and I set off before 6AM on Saturday – I curled on the daybed and drifted off to sleep only to be tortured by nightmares of difficult conversations, begging someone to love me, having to watch as someone I wanted decided I was inferior to the alternatives. I woke and wiped the tears from my cheeks and rolled to stare at the ceiling. Then I closed my eyes again to pray.

I felt more peaceful after the amen. I still ached, but it was the more familiar sensation of acknowledging that I am alone and most likely to remain that way. That’s unpleasant – always has been, always will be – but the degree that it hurts varies widely. I also realized that I do not miss him. I do miss being in love – thinking of someone and feeling warm and happy – but that feeling of longing has little to do with this particular man.

“I hope he’s happy,” I whispered, checking to see if it was true. I winced when I realized it wasn’t. So I thought very hard and tried again. “I hope he’s happy,” I said more insistently, willing myself to mean it more than just a little. “I wish I were happier,” I finally stated, nodding when I recognized the truth in that statement.

The difficult part is reconciling that I have no faith in my ability to successfully navigate a romantic relationship. I believe that if I were to try again, I’d end up hurt again. Facing yet another engagement announcement of a man I’d loved and a woman who was decidedly not me. And though they are getting easier to manage – I really do think I’m fine now – I can’t say I want to do this again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Week in Review

“January 18, 1979,” I recited promptly and waited while he typed in his computer. “Thank you,” I smiled when he said my prescription would be ready in 15 minutes. I set off to pick up a couple of items – presents for the girls as I’m going home tomorrow, two more poster frames that make my living room look less like a dorm room, dog treats and cat litter.

“Hi, Smallest One,” I cooed when Mom called to tell me the girls were very excited I was coming tomorrow. “What does a cat say?” I asked, knowing my assigned lines. “Very good!” I praised upon hearing ‘meow.’ “And what does a dog say?”

“20mg of Celexa,” the pharmacist confirmed when I returned to his counter. “Three months?”

I nodded and thanked him again, feeling relieved that I’d finally found time to pick up the pills that help keep me steady. Then I came home to clean a bit, do some laundry, download audiobooks for my trip and shower.

“Make it stop,” I whimpered. “Oh, please, make it stop.” I winced, praying the 2 Tylenol and 2 Advil 30 minutes later would become effective before I threw up. I curled on the bed in the guest room, unsure of why I ended up there instead of on the larger bed in the master bedroom. I waited, forcing back nausea and reminding myself to breathe slowly when I realized I was panting from the pain.

“Thank you,” I whispered a few moments later, feeling the pain in my temple ease as though a knot was unraveling into smooth strands. Then, feeling Chienne curl behind my knees, I relaxed into the pillowtop mattress and went to sleep.

The Day Before Yesterday
“I can show you how to use the shower,” she offered. I blinked sleepily, muscles loose and brain pleasantly blank after a nice massage, and tightened the knot of my terrycloth robe.

“OK,” I finally said, perking up a bit when I noticed there were matching rows of three nozzles each on the walls, topped by one of those huge showerheads that pretends to produce rain. I tried to focus, thinking six controls seemed a bit excessive, and shrugged philosophically when my therapist left me to it.

Tossing my robe on a bench, I wandered toward the controls, gasping when the cold water splattered on my skin from the left. I instinctively reached for the closest level, hoping to stop the icy water, and instead turned on the other side of the shower. Scampering back from the dual assault of cold water, I giggled at the absurdity of the situation and braced myself before turning knobs and shoving at levels randomly, pleased when the water warmed.

“Water, water everywhere,” I murmured, figuring out how to turn on the overhead water. I finished shampooing my hair and reached for the complimentary cleanser. I turned, unsure of how to handle this bathing experience since water was coming from everywhere. But I’m used to turning toward and away from the water in the shower so I twirled aimlessly when I felt it was appropriate.

I returned to work after taking a mere three hours to have a massage (and shower) and sighed at the 70 new messages that waited. And all the stress I’d worked to shove away rushed back in seconds.

I sighed, went back to work and reminded myself that I was taking this weekend off.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Never Again

When I get very, very angry, I use that phrase. "Never again," I sometimes seethe. Other times leave me sighing those two words. And - very rarely - I curl up and sob after I've said them.

When something sucks, it is natural to want to avoid a similar experience in the future. Like when Friend flew into a nearby city? And I sat in traffic for freaking hours?

"Never again," I said when she got in the car. Though I love her dearly, I'd rather pay $200 to get her to a closer airport than suffer through inching along highways.

Likewise, I walked out of the UPS store this afternoon and muttered "Never Again," to Vera Bradley. I wanted a new laptop bag and desired a fun pattern. I knew there were some retiring fabrics on sale and, having never owned a Vera Bradley bag, decided I could get a mini hipster (which is absolutely adorable and the perfect size for all those work items that I might carry should I run an errand on my way home) and a laptop portfolio. The latter was huge and hard, which seems a good thing in general but when applied to laptop bags is not ideal. I carried it to work once and decided I'd return it - it was just a stupid design.

I decided a messenger would be better. Same Mediterranean White color, but in a friendly, floppy design! I printed the return form and filled it out, stopping to send the icky bag back. On my way back to my car, I realized that I'd paid $10 to have it shipped to me, another $10.50 to send it back and then $10 to have the messenger shipped. Feeling a bit sad, I returned home to see that the messengers were marked down another $15! So I lost $45 here! Way to make me feel badly about a cute bag, Vera Bradley. I hope I enjoy it because when it comes to buying from you in the future? Never Again.

After a Very Tense conversation with DifferentPerson this morning, I sighed. "This is going to happen again," I told him. "You like to plan and and I like to do. I'm frustrated without an action item and you're annoyed when I act before you're ready to make a decision. But," I paused for effect, "You Must Respect Me."

He said that he did and I scoffed. "Then it's not acceptable to send snippy emails or criticize my choices or try to make me feel badly. When you do that, it makes me dread having to work with you. And given our overlapping roles, that's bad."

"I don't want to manage your priorities," he stated at one point. "I don't have time."

"No," I said, probably too loudly. "You don't manage my priorities because you don't have the right to do so! We are peers, DifferentPerson. Equals. You need to understand that and act like you believe it - even if you don't - or we're going to have this same resentment constantly."

"I didn't mean to make you feel badly," he finally said.

"Thank you," I finally replied. And he started talking about how stressed he was and I said that everyone was and we talked about priorities and moods and the like. Then, filled with excess energy after hanging up, I began to clean my office. I reorganized my bookshelves. I filed paperwork. I crawled under my desk and plugged in cords so they were better organized. I dusted and polished. I found a spot for my award - very visible from where I sit but unobtrusive when visitors enter.

I fought another battle I don't think I'll need to face again. I made my position clear, braced for impact and argued until I won. (It was actually pretty easy, but I deserve credit for being prepared.)

"Finding your happy place?" A colleague asked when she walked by my door. "I heard you earlier. Are you OK?" Wincing when I realized I should have closed my door before having it out with DifferentPerson, I shrugged at her.

"I'm having a hard time lately," I admitted.

"Customers?" she asked sympathetically and I shook my head.

"Well, some customers, I guess. And colleagues." I paused and sighed. "I'm the common factor. It's me that's the problem." And given my fondness for drama and ability to somehow create it so as to avoid boredom, I assume you'll hear a similar story at some point soon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Survivor's Guilt

Sibling likes to use analogies. "Let's say we're comparing french fries and Chinese food," she said at one point during a meeting and it took every ounce of self control not to roll my eyes.

"Why," I thought with a long-suffering sigh, "can't we talk about what we're talking about rather than stepping back and using these elaborate examples that don't really make sense?!" Then I realized that it's exactly what I did and I spared a quick smile of ridiculous affection for myself. I am a silly goose. And being so sometimes allows me more patience and understanding than I might have otherwise had.

There was, for those of you who've not been with us for very long, the elaborate 'penguin' series. I can't immediately think of other examples, but I was quite fond of telling stories around stories. In very long posts. And I enjoyed writing them very, very much.

I remembered the penguins because I was searching my archives today to remember how to write a paper. I had frowned upon receiving the request. It's not a deliverable for me anymore - I don't feel flattered to have been asked or that it remains important to contribute to the publishing community.

Yet I did know this topic and reading through the abstract made me believe the paper was awful enough that it'd be easy to review. So I clicked the 'yes, fine - I'll do it' link and began reading the paper.

"That doesn't make sense," I muttered, supine on my bed and curled amidst pillows. "Wait," I said a moment later. "Why do I care about this?" Paging the screen of my laptop back, I re-read the abstract and introduction and couldn't find any mention of significance. "So we just do crap because we can? And then publish because it's fun?"

As I was typing comments, I noted that I didn't see the significance of the work. I suggested they follow the advice set out in my post in order to focus an overly-long introduction. I noted some confounds and expressed my concern that their data weren't wrong enough to support the sweeping conclusions. And I suggested they take a step back, think about what they were doing and try again.

I reviewed my comments, making sure I noted the strong points that I looked hard to find, and submitted what I'd written. It was fair, I told myself, and might enable him to write a paper worth reading.

I was then struck by a miserable sense of guilt. I recalled being held hostage against publication demands and the horror of getting a paper rejected under those circumstances. I also remembered the frustration of working through revisions that would have been unnecessary had people just read what I wrote.

It sometimes pains me to admit the process worked. Rejection and the overcoming thereof built confidence. Revising papers I thought were fine as is made me a better writer - focused on holding people's attention and being completely clear about the message I hoped to convey.

I spared a moment to say a quick prayer for the author of the paper I reviewed. I hope he finds happiness in his academic career and develops stronger writing skills. Godspeed, grad student. May you eventually review papers with kindness and encouragement in memory of how I recommended major revisions of your paper.

Cost, Benefit, Balance

I jumped when he yelled, blinking at him in surprise even as his attention was directed elsewhere. I’d been told Best got upset, but – in the year that I’ve worked with him – had yet to see it. Yet fury was evident – muscles tight, eyes narrowed, voice loud – he was the picture of offended male on Wednesday.

“Do you know they wrote my name down?” PrettyHair came into the lab I was using and blinked back angry tears on Thursday.

“Well, hell,” I replied. “I’m sorry. The woman with the ugly red shirt said something to me when I walked in. I muttered something about how she needed a hobby and made sure she heard me. That whole team is beyond useless.” I shook my head at myself even as PrettyHair complained more and went away. I don’t mind being sarcastic and critical – they’re personality traits of mine – but I do find fault with truly thinking people are useless pieces of trash. And, pushed past the limits of my general tolerance, I could have screamed any number of inappropriate insults and the red-shirted woman and meant every word. (I didn't scream, but the muttered remark was out of line just the same.)

There are some months where hormones seem to alter a severe shift in mood. I grow viciously angry, uncaring of consequences and eager to do whatever damage I can. During those moments, it’s best if I isolate myself and wait it out. Instead, I called 12 hour days reasonable and winced when I came home 15 hours after leaving on Wednesday.

I was exhausted. My head hurt. I was about 9.2 out of 10 on the scale of evil. My list of things to do – once completely manageable – grew to panic-inducing proportions.

Feeling – whether correctly or not, I still can’t tell – that recognition from VeryImportant had prompted several people to communicate their low opinions of me, I went past defensive into survive-against-attack mode. In such a state, I made statements I would never have otherwise said. I took – and passionately defended – positions I didn’t really think were valid.

“Katie, as a friend, I wanted to talk to you,” a colleague said as we spoke on the phone at 7:30 last night. He went on to lecture me on finding balance, not overreacting and not jumping to judgment.

“It’s all cost benefit analysis,” I sighed. “And I understand you’re trying to help here – I really do – but I can tell you I’m reading it as more criticism in an already awful week. I understand that gaining VeryImportant’s praise means that I’m focused on priorities he’s defined and ignored some of yours. Likewise, I spent a good 60 hours this week working on a project for Adam because he’s my boss.”

“But I think you’re so passionate and dedicated that you react when people don’t match that.”

“That’s not true!” I argued, visibly bristling as I gripped the phone tighter. “I know I’m working really hard – nearly constantly, actually – and what I’m hearing from you and other people is that you’re disappointed with my effort. That I’m not contributing enough. And at some point, I need to tell you to go to hell because there’s nothing left for me to give you.”

“You need to rest,” he said after a moment.

“No,” I replied, clipping my words because I was hurt and frustrated and didn't know how to deal with him. “I need to go so I can finishing working on my analysis.” So I brushed away tears, feeling a complete failure, and calculated scores and made figures. I went to sleep near midnight, heart aching because people I like and respect are not currently returning those feelings.

I woke at 6 this morning to finish my presentation. My group was at the office at 8 to go over my results and decide on what to do next. Other than a 3 hour nap that I desperately needed, I worked all day. I think it's important. I'm proud of the effort of my group and don't mind shouldering much of the workload for this project. But doing that means other priorities suffer. And even as that's inescapable and normal, it sucks.

Given that highs seem to be paired with corresponding lows, I could go with a few uneventful weeks here soon.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What a difference a day makes.

I wrote - and deleted - an entire story about how someone had wronged me. I even sent an email that said something like "This was grossly inappropriate and I'm deeply offended. You owe me an apology."

"I don't want to be the one who's difficult and tempermental," I sighed. "I don't want to argue with colleagues and complain about my peers. I like it here."

"You're fine," a friend replied. "He's the one who's difficult." I nodded, but continued to frown thoughtfully. "You know," she offered a moment later, "it's a blessing a curse to be so visible in the business so early in your career."

I cocked my head at her, nibbled on my chip and smiled. "Are you saying more people will attack me and take pleasure from my failures?"

"Probably," she replied readily.

"It wasn't nice to tell me I was bad at my job," I said softly of the email I received this morning from one of the guys in my group. "It hurt my feelings."

"Katie," she scolded. "How many people have congratulated you today? The leaders of the company know who you are and recognize that you're one of Very Important's favorites. How can you fixate on one idiot's opinion of you and ignore all the other feedback?"

"It's my natural inclination," I replied, wishing that weren't the case.

"I am good at my job," I told myself when I returned to my desk and touched the envelope I received yesterday. "I have a certificate that says so."

Then I set up a call to address my erstwhile colleague on Friday. I need time to calm down (for I'm quite vicious when attacked) and settle before we discuss this. He was inappropriate and offensive and I did not deserve it. Unhappy people generally try to spread their misery to others and I'm trying to pity him rather than plotting his demise. (That's not going so well.) But I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Year One

"I suddenly realized, bringing my attention to the meeting going on and away from the trees outside the window earlier this afternoon, that I wasn’t home. Meetings are funny – long tables arranged in U shapes, chairs strewn about. Windows that open to nondescript views hid the fact that I’m somewhere new. There was a moment – a rather excruciating one – where I panicked. I missed Friend and my house and my dog! I wanted cheese biscuits or waffles or sweet tea! But I settled in again, reminded myself to breathe and focused on the topic at hand."
-Day One, July 7, 2008

Some things change, I thought as I looked around at the crowd gathered in our largest of meeting rooms (It seats 90% of our local business) to receive a business update and realized I knew many of them. Then I shifted in my chair and reminded myself to focus on the meeting around me, smiling when I realized that other things are fairly constant over time. I was thinking of the conference call I had earlier and items I'd yet to action. I wondered what I wanted for dinner and frowned while trying to remember if I'd had lunch.

"She looks like me," I thought as I glanced at the photo and bullet items projected on the giant screen at the front of the room. I blushed, feeling my lips curve in that nervous I'm-embarrassed-by-wildly-flattered-by-the attention-of-two-hundred people smile when I realized that it was me.

"I saw Katie," Very Important said, glancing around the room. I waved my hand - high enough to be noticed, but low enough to be modest - and he smiled at me before returning to his remarks about how responsive and well-liked and generally awesome I was. I had time to wish my hair weren't yanked back in a messy ponytail and that I was wearing prettier shoes as people turned to grin at me.

"Congratulations!" Pretty Hair whispered from her seat beside me and patted my arm. "Did you know?"

"No," I denied immediately, trying to stop smiling so hard. I do like attention.

"Katie, can you come up?" Very Important asked, his microphone-amplified voice demanding my attention. I opened my mouth in surprise, closed it again and stood to make my way toward the front of the room. I reached for Very Important's hand when I arrived and thanked him - holding eye contact so I didn't have to look out at the gathered crowd - as people applauded. "You're doing a great job. We love having you on the team," he said and I thanked him again.

I returned to my seat, nodding in response to the congratulations people offered and clutched the white envelope that he'd given me in my hand. I soon smoothed the small spot where I'd wrinkled the paper, tracing the embossed company logo with the tip of my index finger before returning my attention to the next speaker.

"It's my one year anniversary," I told Pretty Hair as we exited the building, pausing to smile and nod at more expressions of congratulations.

"And you got an award!" she said, pausing to ask if it had really been a year since I started.

"To the day," I replied, finally tucking the envelope safely in my bag to open later. It's a small thing - a moment of recognition and small gift - but people think I'm doing a good job. I also think I'm doing well and very much enjoy being part of this group.

Thought it's not been without challenges, today I was visibly happy.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


I think it started when Adam called me a monkey. He grinned when my mouth dropped open in shocked indignation and took a drink of his soda while awaiting my reaction.

"I worked really hard on that!" I finally protested, earning the attention of colleagues at a nearby table.

"I'm sure you did," he agreed mildly. "All I'm saying is that someone with your extreme talent wouldn't be necessary to do it. A trained monkey could have input the data. But I'll bring you some bananas if that makes you feel better."

"I'll expect them tomorrow," I sniffed, continuing to pout. "I spent all weekend doing work for you and then you call me a monkey," I muttered, barely managing to suppress a grin.

When faced with this weekend - a four-day super-special holiday weekend - I decided work could wait. It has therefore been four days of tackling all the non-Industry items that I keep meaning to do.

I mentioned my chapter. The project had gone from a flattered acceptance of request to a niggling worry of when I was going to work on that to a nagging concern that I wasn't going to write anything worthwhile.

"I need time to think," I often say. While I am reasonably smart (Really. I am. It's hard to tell, I know, but you'll have to trust me here.), when it comes to technical concepts, I sometimes need some time to process information and look at examples before I can wrap my mind around a new method. Given that the phone is always ringing and email piling up and people at my door, I can't even beg for 30 minutes to sit and mull something over. Instead, I react in prioritized order.

You may think of my mind like a guinea pig (for I like them more than hamsters) faced with multiple wheels (Do guinea pigs run on wheels? I was little when I had them as pets.) and trying to run on all of them in a frantic pace. Then I sleep.

In order to make the wheels stop, I left my laptop closed. I turned off my cell phone. I was off and doing other things. No Katie for you.

Yesterday was not productive, a fact that disappointed me mightily. The house was a mess, my chapter was progressing nicely but not finished and I began to worry about going back to work on Monday. Frustrated with myself, I decided to steam clean the basement carpet last night - Chienne and I were already cowered down there, hiding from the scary sounds of exploding fireworks. About an hour later, sweating profusely and swearing at the steam cleaner that wouldn't suck up the water, I finished using my ShopVac and nodded in satisfaction. Then I sleepily curled on the big, comfortable couch and looked up additional references for my chapter.

This morning, I wandered downstairs with renewed purpose. De-clutter, start laundry, water plants, I decided as I poured coffee and curled in the corner of my loveseat. Revive iMac (which has been broken since my last trip. It was very sick before I left and Smallest One finished it off by banging on keys in some special 'Die, Die, Die!' order.), load new pictures on digital photo frame, organize books and DVDs in bedroom.

It's barely past noon and I'm looking at new photos in my frame. The last load of laundry is in the washer and the dishes are also clean. Tiger is installing on the iMac (I went through 5 of the 6 troubleshooting steps on the Apple Support site and was beginning to lose hope.) Plants are watered (and doing very well! This house has lots of windows and there are plants in most of them). All is organized and pretty and my nails (fingers and toes!) are even painted. I've talked to my parents and the girls.

"I'll come home in two weeks," I decided. "I'll take Friday off and drive home to spend the weekend. It's been good to take a break - a real break - from Industry." I told Mom. "I think I'm even ready to go back tomorrow."

Saturday, July 04, 2009


  • I have awakened at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning for more nights than I can recall. It's a mixture of bad dreams, thinking I heard a noise and, perhaps, habit.
  • If it's 2AM, I sing Anna Nalick in my head.
  • 3AM means Matchbox Twenty.
  • My sleep schedule is so screwed. And Dream Katie grows tired of running from people. Just not tired enough to sleep and stay asleep.
  • Chienne and I hid in the basement this evening.
  • It's been cool enough to keep the house open of late, but it grew warm this afternoon. I do not like being hot.
  • It's nearly the 4th of July and people are exploding things. Chienne does not like fireworks so she curled up in the shower of the bathroom downstairs. I gave her a sofa cushion so she'd be more comfortable and turned the television way up.
  • Sprout came to visit. He likes to screw with the dog and it's easier to get my attention when she's in hiding.
  • My chapter is coming along beautifully. Apparently, giving it vague consideration but applying no real effort for several months allowed my brain to be ready to write it.
  • I spent Thursday making figures.
  • I spent yesterday making final figure revisions, writing text and adding references.
  • It was a surprisingly lovely process. Though I was out of practice of thinking about a topic in that particular way, I fell back into it easily enough and am enjoying the experience far more than I thought I would.
  • I had a choice for the last section and - shockingly - I went for the more challenging choice. I still don't know how to write it, but I've decided it's important that I do.
  • I decided on a more relaxed style. I tell stories and use silly words and basically sound like Katie. I may edit it out, but I like to think I'm growing more comfortable with sharing how I view things.
  • Well, comfortable in my professional self. I've always been pretty comfortable on a personal level.
  • I changed the art in my living room. The vintage travel posters are now downstairs.
  • Friend liked the birthday present I sent! So I was pleased (mostly) that I didn't keep it.
  • I just realized blogging had dipped for the summer. It's a natural process, of course, but given that summer is now meaningless to me (I don't even get to enjoy a less-crowded campus), it took some time for me to put it together.
  • I like Wing Street Wings delivered by Pizza Hut. My local (what's the word? For the single element of a chain? Franchise?) place just recently began to carry them. Not being a huge Pizza Hut fan in general, I was pleased to hear of the chicken addition.
  • My house - while lovely - has few delivery options.
  • Work is going reasonably well.
  • I'm still the favorite of my group. In general, I'm only happy if I'm the favorite.
  • Being the favorite means I get more work. It's just higher profile.
  • It's very close to my one year anniversary! Does that seem odd to anyone else?
  • I'm getting quite good at telling people no. (I'm also very skilled at telling people they're being mean and that's inappropriate and knock it the hell off.)
  • I miss blogging. I remember when I used to compose posts in my head every day, take time to write in Word and edit in Blogger before publishing and pore over site stats.
  • The communities established here continue to amaze me.
  • Kim made a comment on my Skirt Length post. She has a survey if you have a few moments and would like to help out. I have already done so.
  • The time for reflection - if I made it - might cut down on the nightmares and sleepless hours before dawn.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Keeps Getting Worse

"We manufacture these!" I seethed, having poking at buttons and wiggling cables for the last two hours. "And we can't get them to work?" I glared at the offending device and crossed my arms, tapping my toe for agitated good measure. "You acquire data!" I ordered it. "You do it right now!"

Alas, it did not and with a final flip of my hair which I hope expressed my utter disgust with the situation, I returned to my desk and made my way through two useless conference calls and a hurried to a seminar I'd organized.

I mentally composed a grocery list after I offered a smiling introduction to our visitor and his topic and got bored somewhere between cream and flour. The questions were frequent and discussion lively so I counted myself pleased with the overall experience. (Plus, I got to talk to a very pretty boy who invited me to lunch sometime.)

Buoyed by the brief flirtation, I returned to additional conference calls and emails, slowly growing more frustrated again. Finally, with a muttered bad word, I tucked various items in my bag and left. Deciding only carrot cake could save the horrible day, I stopped at the store and deftly pulled into a very good parking spot.

I paused when an elderly woman called out, turning to move toward her.

"Are you going inside?" she asked, motioning to the store and nodded when I replied that I was. "Will you take my cart?" she continued and I smiled before reaching for the handle.

"It's no problem," I demurred when she thanked me very much. "Have a nice evening."

I thought of my aging phobia, acknowledging that I remained utterly terrified of the fact that I'm growing older. Baring an early death, I might someday stand outside a grocery store, tired after my shopping trip, and ask someone to take my cart inside. My hair would remain dark, I decided, thinking of Grandma, but would be liberally sprinkled with gray strands. I would likely wear slacks and blouses - that's what all the nice, old women of my acquaintance wear so I should follow suit.

Unable to find vegetables that appealed in the produce section, I paused to select cheese from the display case and paused before tossing it in the cart. My eyes widened as I looked in the basket and I gasped with utter horror.

"No, no, no, no, no..." I whispered, reaching for the item beside my cheese and scampering toward the door. In the foyer of the store, I peered out the window and whimpered when I saw that I was too late. She had already pulled out of the handicapped spot and driven away.

I looked down at my hands, clutched around it, and closed my eyes and sighed heavily. If lying in church hadn't already assured me of a spot in the fiery pits of Hell, this would certainly seal the deal, I decided.

I had stolen the sweet, old woman's cane.

I returned it to my cart and finished my shopping. I picked a whole carrot cake and some crackers to go with my cheese. I remembered flour and realized Sprout was low on kibble before moving toward the refrigerated case to fetch cream.

I returned the cane to the customer service counter at the front of the store. "I didn't notice it," I explained, twisting my hands. "I was thinking about other things. I'm sorry." I winced when they thanked me for returning it. "Tell her I'm sorry," I requested again. "It's just not my day."