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.