Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top 5

Reasons to Bathe
  1. I'm very put upon. When people irritate me, I tend to soothe myself by soaking in hot water.
  2. I'm very sad. On the semi-rare occasions where I cry, I tend to find myself running water shortly thereafter to prevent terrible headaches and let myself recover from whatever upset me.
  3. I'm very bored. It's an activity that takes some time, and I sometimes need to kill a couple hours.
  4. I'm physically unwell. Muscles are sore, arch of my foot is cramping, head hurts, feeling queasy - water soothes me and I generally feel better after getting clean.
  5. I can.

Bathtime Activities
  1. Read. I tend toward the papers I never find time for at the office, feeling rather luxurious as I lounge in the tub and let my relaxed brain soak in some knowledge.
  2. Shave legs. So much easier when I'm not hurrying through a shower and can take time and not miss spots.
  3. Pumice heels. When else do I take time to handle pedicure projects?
  4. Stare into space. Once legs and feet are smooth, I lie back and let my thoughts drift as they may. I sometimes think about work, others lazily compose blog posts.
  5. Use Lush products.*
Favorite Lush Products*
  1. Pop in the Bath
  2. Happy Pill
  3. French Kiss
  4. Fox in the Flowers (Warning: If you happen to close your eyes and open them, don't nearly drown yourself in alarm when you think there are bugs in the bathtub. They're flower petals. You're fine.)
  5. Something Wicked This Way Comes

Non-Ideal Bathing Moments
  1. Getting in. Said octagon window is uncovered so I tend to leave a shirt on until I can kneel in the water, out of possible view from the outdoors.
  2. Excessive bubbles. Some of the bubble bars are hyperactive - putting them under the high pressure flow as the tub is filling and then turning on the jets means that I get buried in whispering suds. Which makes it hard to read, though I do giggle when it happens.
  3. Nearly drowning myself in alarm when mistaking flower petals for bugs. That was very scary.
  4. Getting out, generally. See point 1 - the window makes the whole process quite awkward, but I accomplish it with a complete lack of grace and multiple slithering movements as I stay low to the edge of the bathtub until I grab a towel.
  5. Getting out, hurriedly. If the phone rings (or, you know, I think there are bugs everywhere), I sometimes fail to grab the towel quickly enough, wince and try to duck down while remaining dripping wet. Then I nearly fall on the ceramic tile. There's nothing like injuring yourself after a nice, relaxing bath to make you need another one

Lovely Pieces of Home
(Springtime edition)
  1. The bunnies that guard my front door.
  2. Cool weather that keeps the air conditioning off and the doors open.
  3. The shed tucked between the far side of the fence and the deck. I feel very grown up when I think about owning a separate structure for my yard tools.
  4. The sun peeking through the sliding doors of the master suite - I awaken very easily lately since it gets bright so early.
  5. Giant whirlpool bathtub under the octagon window so I can watch the clouds float by as I settle in the water.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Much Mulch

My parents have projects. Each time they come visit, something gets accomplished so I sensed that we would have some manual labor planned for today. I was therefore a bit dirty when we decided to take a car ride (we do that for fun), but asked that Chienne accompany us so that I had a friend in the backseat.

Having secured the services of a neighbor boy to mow my lawn, I resolved to ignore the outdoor work for the remainder of the season. Nonetheless, I was not particularly surprised to be crawling around by the fence, squinting against the sunshine as we pulled weeds and deposited mulch to prevent future trimming needs.

“I ordered a WorxGT!” I complained. “I can’t remember its features, exactly, but I’m pretty sure it makes any trimming pure pleasure.” Dad blinked at me, unmoved, and offered that I needed more mulch around that far corner of the fence. Pouting, I plodded toward the offending area and shook one of the fifteen bags we purchased until cedar chips fell to the ground.

“Done!” I proclaimed, thinking the back yard did look rather nice now that the grass was neatly cut and fence areas mounded with mulch. Yet I found myself trailing after Mom to water flowers or Dad to transplant a hosta that had grown behind my shed. I pulled weeds and swept walks, talked to neighbors and giggled when my parents argued over methodology.

Walking through my first house for the last time, making sure it was completely emptied of items and feeling terribly sad that I’d be leaving the adorable structure I so loved, I touched each of the projects we were leaving behind. Mom and Cousin had hung the blinds I’d chosen on each of the tall windows throughout the house. Dad had re-done the light fixtures in both bathrooms after he proclaimed my work ‘dangerous.’ (I maintain that it was fine.) I’d sat with him on the green and white linoleum in the kitchen, fixing the water dispenser on the refrigerator and, later, installing a garbage disposal. I stepped out the front door and locked it for the last time, remembering coming through that entrance with Chienne every day after our walks and finding Sprout among the bushes in the flower bed one summer.

Given my travel schedule, most projects in this house have been completed without my assistance. The deck and balcony are painted – I heard that was a miserable endeavor. I did help assemble the five or six bookshelves I ordered and did as Friend told me in order to maneuver my loveseat through the front door. I had the fence installed by professionals, but bought my Jeep with Dad’s help. This house is becoming filled with memories quite quickly due to the proximity to where my parents reside. They’re here a lot – know my neighbors a bit better than I do and are more familiar with the surrounding areas. (I do know how to get back and forth to work really well though.)

So when I got home on Thursday, they were comfortably settled in the living room. “We brought cookies,” Mom offered, eyes worried even as my stomach cramped with pre-doctor nerves.

“What’d they say?” Dad asked, eyes even more concerned when Mom and I returned from the appointment.

All had normalized by the time I returned from work on Friday. They were working on dinner came through the garage door so I kicked off my heels and set the table. We had run out of the first batch of mulch by 9 this morning, soon brushing the dirt off our clothes so we could go fetch more supplies. I bought them dinner after we decided the fence was safe from weeds and we completed the day with the requisite car ride.

It used to bother me, spending time in a vehicle, riding around without any real destination in mind. Today, I let my hair blow around my face as the windows remained down. We stopped for sodas and sipped as we looked at how high the river is and all the cars parked at a show. I smiled when we returned home, Chienne’s tail wagging as she recognized her yard.

“See the mulch?” I asked her, patting her head and clipping the leash to her collar. “We did that.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"Hello," I greeted the young doctor who entered, pretty skirt swishing about her knees. "I'm Katie. And this is my mom."

She started talking, voice quick and precise and I nodded as she explained. "So if it's a uterine fibroid, we'll go in, look at it and then come right back out. We'll only remove it if it's ovarian. Those masses can be cancer and can also be large enough to twist the ovary and cut off its blood supply. So it would come out."

"If you're going in," I replied, "I want it out. It's uterine - I know that."

"No," she interrupted me. "MRI isn't overly reliable."

"I disagree," I offered coolly, thinking of images I'd examined carefully for hours. "It's uterine. I can see the outer layer of the uterus stretching around it. I don't need to let you stick a camera through my navel. I know right now."

[Seriously, people - look at that! At the very bottom of that picture, you see that bright curve surrounded by a darker curve of tissue - that's the uterus. Right at the front and top of that, there's a large ball. Now, especially at the front, you can see the uterine lining wrapping around the fibroid. It Is Uterine.)

I think I mentioned I think ovaries are adorable - you can see the healthy one on the right of the image (it's my left ovary, but that's radiologic convention in the axial plane). It's the light gray circle-like thingie with the smaller white dots inside. The other one - for there are two - is smooshed behind the giant fibroid on the left side of the image. You can see it peeking out from below the big, dark mass. Said fibroid is destroying the healthy symmetry that should exist. And while I agree that the fibroid and ovary are located very close together, I do not believe they are attached, nor do I think the mass is coming from the ovary.

"So you don't think you can know enough through imaging," I sighed while Mom fretted beside me and Doctor perched on a small stool. "And I don't want surgery unless you're going to remove whatever the mass is. So what do we do?"

"It's your body," she said kindly. "So we do what feels comfortable for you and I'll tell you if I think you're taking unnecessary risks with your health. I'd like to check some hormone levels - that will give me some clues as to whether this might be ovarian. So you can get blood taken today or in a few days."

"She'll do it today," Mom decided and I smiled.

"I'm not afraid of needles anymore," I noted, tentatively proud. "I used to be terrified of them, but I got through it after giving blood."

"That's good!" she praised. "Some people never get through that phobia so I think that's great for you."

"It's just the surgery and multiple pelvic exams that freak me out," I offered with an apologetic grimace.

"Look," she said. "This was a good conversation. We got to know each other and I certainly respect your thoughts and opinions and feel like you understood what I was trying to say. At this time, I don't believe your life is at risk. I'm not going to force you into a decision because I don't think it's necessary. So we'll see what the bloodwork reveals, talk again and see how you feel about your options."

"Thank you," I said sincerely and walked over to the lab with Mom close behind.

After ensuring the young woman was good at her job (she said she'd use a smaller needle for me), I closed my eyes and turned my head as the needle pricked and blood flowed into three vials. I sighed with relief when she told me to apply pressure and wandered out to escape soon after.

I don't know if I'm more or less worried. I do understand that I have no plan. Without the goal of getting this thing out of me, I'm far less inclined to have exploratory surgery. If you want to explore my insides, I shall lie in a giant magnet and show you pictures. I'll even drink a bunch of water and let you push against my tummy with a transducer. If we can't agree on that plan, I'll take the time I was offered to mull it over and try not to freak out about it.

"Have you had a mammogram?" she asked after realizing I was 30.

"I've seen my breasts," I declined to offer that x-rays hadn't been used. "They're good."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


"Now," came the voice from my speakers, "what do you think about Michael after listening to that scenario?"

"I think Michael is a jackass," I replied conversationally, keeping my hands on the wheel as I learned how to have a dialogue when it mattered the most.

"How would your future interactions with Michael be?" the voice asked.

"Minimal," I answered. "I shall plot to have him fired."

"Would you avoid him?" The voice prompted again.

"As much as possible," I decided. "But I have to see him sometimes to campaign against him."

"Or would you be driven to fight?"

"Good idea!" I praised the radio. "I will endeavor to make his life difficult."

"Remember that fight nor flight is the best option," the voice offered and I scowled at the time displayed on the CD player. "Now how could you approach Michael to make progress toward your mutual goals?"

"Unless he'd like to be fired," I snapped, "I don't think we have mutual goals!"

"Maybe Michael was having a bad day," the voice suggested.

"Maybe Michael is just a jackass," I replied.

"Perhaps he is concerned that you aren't doing what he asked you to do."

"Still a jackass!" I gasped with indignant dismay - why would this Michael person doubt that I'd follow through?! - while reaching to flip on my turn signal.

I am the jackass, I thought sulkily as I sat in a meeting. We were having a global teleconference and it was Not Going Well. I blinked in surprise when I realized people were driven toward fight or flight during tense conversations. My particular room was silent - we wouldn't reply even when asked a direct question. Other rooms around the world were buzzing angrily, tossing out strongly-worded phrases and scoffs of disdain. And - for the life of me - I couldn't devise a way to correct the downward trend.

Make it safe, I remembered, squinting with effort. Um...contrast what you don't intend with what you do so that people understand you're not really a jackass. Don't assign motivations to people and stick only with the facts of the situation as you try not to grow offended. Find areas of agreement...or something...

Just then, someone irritated me and I snapped a sarcastic remark before I could stop myself. I'm failing the audio-lesson, I pouted, and soon left. If I'm going to screw it up, I may as well hit silent, confrontational and absent all in one meeting.

I did not play the CD on my drive home, but heard the voice just the same. "Did you get what you wanted from that interaction?" it asked, not unkindly.

Perhaps I should restart the series and try again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I'll pass.

I remember it vividly. Soft lights glowed in the background so the herd of students could see the display screens. I was seated in a corner, efficiently running equipment in the background, while Advisor offered some simple remarks for a friend’s class.

“Some people can identify methods with a simple glance,” said friend noted, smiling at Advisor flirtatiously. He grinned in return, nodded modestly and offered the name of the technique.

I turned my head, ponytail swinging, and blinked at him and felt my mouth drop open in surprise. It was a unique method – one nearly anyone in the field could have identified with a glance. And he’d gotten it wrong. He wasn’t even close.

While he was doubtless distracted and it was a rather irrelevant moment in an equally meaningless demonstration, I was nonetheless shocked. And, after that moment in my second year of graduate study, I noticed more and more clues that the guy had very little idea as to what the hell was going on. Which simultaneously disappointed and encouraged me. If he could be a professor then I’d have no problem with the same career choice.

Hard as Industry is – much as I struggle with politics and decision processes, workload and demands – I’ve never considered going back into academia. When one of my figures got the journal cover. Upon being asked to contribute a chapter to another textbook. Attending major scientific conferences. Interacting with faculty who knew exactly what they were doing, all of it rather brilliant. Appreciating the translation of academic research into clinical practice and the power therein.

“Having fun?” one of my superiors asked one day, walking by as I was filling my water bottle.

“Now?” I asked, turning to smile. “Or in general?”

“The latter,” he replied, taking a couple of steps closer and pausing before me while I nodded. “Don’t want to go back?”

“Oh, no.” I shook my head firmly in denial, familiar with the question of whether I missed my former life. “Not at all. Not ever.”

Distance usually offers perspective though. And as I approach the one-year mark of abandoning the pursuit of a faculty position for a spot within the corporate structure, it seems there would be some pieces I’d miss.

“Hello!” I turned, face transforming into my happiest of expressions after I saw who’d called my name from the edge of the corridor. “I didn’t know you were coming!” I chirped as I hurried toward Smarter, reaching to embrace him. “It’s so good to see you! How are you? Is everything wonderful?”

“I’m fine,” he replied, grinning at me in what I choose to believe was fondness. We chatted for a moment, exchanging gossip involving our fellow students from grad school. I invited him for dinner while I was in town, went on tip-toe to kiss his cheek and waved before scampering away with a new colleague.

“That’s Smarter,” I told one of my favorite Industry friends as we walked together to get breakfast. “He’s one of the most brilliant men I know. Got tenure over a year ago. Big lab, well funded, relevant research. He’s the type that does well in that environment. I was never going to be that good.”

A couple of days later, he stopped by our little area of the exhibition hall. I had been talking to people, drawing pictures by waving my hands in the air to explain some concept or another. I paused mid-spectrum to wave to him before returning to my explanation of which peak was which.

“Hey,” I finally said upon escaping that impromptu demonstration and moving toward him. “You look tired,” I decided, frowning with concern as I got closer.

“I’ve been writing,” he told me. “I have a couple of grants that I want to submit and I need to be doing at least 5,000 words a day if I can meet deadlines.”

“Oh,” I offered sympathetically, patting his arm. I shrugged when he asked if I’d enjoyed the meeting. “It’s actually been lovely,” I confided a moment later and happily elaborated for a moment.

“Great,” he said, stifling a yawn and making me grin in response. “I’m glad you’re happy.”

“So what’s with all the writing? I thought you were set with money.”

“It doesn’t last,” he replied, shaking his head. “I’m fine for now but I have students to support, more project we should be doing. I always need more, feel this pressure to be thinking and writing.”

“Stop,” I scolded him gently. “You’re brilliant. You have it covered.”

“Even if I am, it doesn’t matter. It’s who you know and what’s deemed important for funding and how helpful collaborators decide to be.”

He declined my offer to join us for dinner and drinks that evening and walked away. I watched, tugging distractedly at the sleeve of my jacket, and bit my lip as I noticed his shoulders were slumped and stride slow.

"Still don't miss it?" the same colleague asked, having overheard our discussion as the area quieted.

"No," I turned away from Smarter's departure and toward my new friends. "Not even a little bit."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Auntie Frequency

“We need a plan,” I decided, squinting in the sunshine as I sat next to my mom in lawn chairs. I wrinkled my nose as the cars rumbled by, looking for parking spaces so all could wander by and admire their shiny paint jobs and smelly engines. I was, for once, not talking about pressuring Dad to leave a cruise-in early.

Instead, I referred to seeing the elder of my nieces a bit more often. When we stopped at Brother’s house to drop off a letter on our way to the evening’s automotive event, she clung to me, tiny arms wrapped tightly about my neck. I lifted her easily, settling her on my hip and murmuring into her hair. Yet the promises to see her soon remained unsaid until she clung tighter.

“Don’t cry, Little One,” I told her. “You’ll go in and watch movies and hang out with the cat.” I nodded at her encouragingly, knowing she favors those of the feline species and she blinked at me sadly, breaking my heart.

“She needs to see you more,” Mom agreed, looking unconcerned by the noise and odor there in a parking lot. I sighed, knowing I was spoiled and prissy but hating the experience all the same.

“Once a month seems fair.” I considered it further and nodded in confirmation of my own statement. “But it’s hard to find time to drive home and take a full weekend away from work. Plus, the yard is left unkept and the house is a wreck. I’m concerned about keeping up that schedule.”

“We could bring them up,” Mom decided. “Smallest One would nap if we left in the morning on Friday. Then we could be there with you all weekend – work in the yard and house, take walks and play on the playground – and leave on Monday when you go to work.”

“We’ll trade off,” I declared. “Every other month, I’ll drive down. And on off months, you’ll bring them up. Then Smallest One will know Aunt Katie and Little One can get her fix.” Feeling rather pleased, I smiled and reached for Mom’s hand. “The idea of Aunt Katie is better than the experience of me.”

But whether Little One is showing me how to play her DS games or Smallest One is putting on a heartfelt – if garbled – performance of what I’m pretty sure was a song, I miss them.

Conversely, it's always so good to be back in my own house. I simply need to balance the need for Katie-time with that of the family variety.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How To - Last Conference Day

Order breakfast.
I greeted the waiter in my pajamas and had him set up the table at the foot of the bed so I could continue watching President Obama speak.

As I nibbled on poached eggs perched atop english muffins and sipped freshly-squeezed orange juice and very-strong coffee, I shook my head with admiration. The man speaks beautifully. This message is sensitive and critical and I was incredibly proud that he was my leader.

I brushed my teeth as I waited for the waiter to return for my table and thanked him again as he departed.

Get Naked.
I left shortly thereafter, wandering across the street and down a staircase to a spa. Tucking my clothes in a locker and shrugging into a robe and slippers, I grabbed a towel and glanced at the clock before heading to the steam room.

Feeling rather proud of the way I gracefully removed my robe and donned the towel without showing much skin, I soon realized it wouldn't matter as I stepped through the door and into misty heat and humidity - the space was filled with naked women.

Placing my own towel on the bench and closing my eyes after crossing my legs, I lifted my chin and breathed. Much as I dislike being hot, I find the spa makes most anything pleasurable and found myself sweating happily for several minutes. I eventually stood, wrapped the towel about my torso and stepped quietly back in the changing room, availing myself of a cool cloth waiting in a bucket of ice.

I sat, back in my comfy robe, in the lounge while I sipped tea sweetened with apple juice out of a champagne flute. I soon followed my therapist down the hall for a two-hour massage and woozily returned to the lounge afterward with a glass of white wine in hand. Finally making my way back to the changing room - a bit unsteady from the lengthy massage and quickly-drunk wine, I stood - sleepy and content - in a shower while I washed my hair and scrubbed the oil off my skin. I reluctantly dropped the robe and slippers in the appropriate bins after I dressed again, took one last look around and wandered out to pay.

Returning to my room and feeling amazed that it was already clean, I mussed the neatly-made bed and threw my jeans in the corner. I meant to snuggle into pajamas but somehow found myself nestled into fluffy pillows before that happened.

I dreamed of getting email from people I liked and awakened feeling rather giddy and loved. I was diappointed when no email awaited me - apart from work missives, of course - and refreshed my inbox several times just to make sure nobody wanted to tell me how lovely I was.

Upon realizing I'd done nothing to elicit such a message, I shrugged philosophically, took a quick photo and stepped into jeans again, deciding a walk in the afternoon sunshine sounded rather pleasant. Frowning as I once again lamented my lack of a small bag, I placed items in my pockets and set off again.

With a book shop in mind, I headed away from the water and up a moderate incline toward where I thought shops might be. I slowed behind crowds of people, waited for streetlights to change and peeked in the windows at various displays. Perhaps I was residually sleepy, but I found nothing tempting enough to enter any of the stores but perked up when I reached Chapters. (It was soon after Blooms and though I didn't go in, I thought it a charming moniker for a flower shop.)
Wondering if it was escalator-preventative-maintenance week or if Canada implented some sneaky health plan, I sighed before beginning to climb the still steps of yet another escalator. It can't be all that hard to keep those things running, people. Put a little effort in, shall we?
I selected two novels, reminding myself that books get heavy in luggage (I ended up carrying about 10 home from Hawaii) and forced myself back downstairs to pay rather than selecting many, many more. Walking back downhill was lovely - I could see the water and mountains as I made my way back toward the hotel. Pausing to admire random buildings and profusions of tulips, I lifted my face once more to the sunshine before ducking inside and hurrying to my room so I could open one of my books.

Read. Relax.
I started (and finished) my book, turning pages quickly as I moved through a story while afternoon shifted easily into evening. I blinked and stretched again before shuffling across the room to pack the finished novel, thinking wistfully of the shelves back home and missing my Chienne and Sprout and bed and house.
Finally tiring of being alone - it does happen, albeit rarly - I went to the lobby to watch people and have a snack at the bar before deciding to come back upstairs and continue packing for my early flight tomorrow.
Go Home.
My parents will pick me up tomorrow afternoon and I'll go back to their house. Then I, with the animals, will finally arrive at home on Sunday. Lovely as this has been, I am more than ready for that to happen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


"Everything is so busy in the mornings," I told my dinner companions as I nibbled my salad and reached for bread. Dropping the latter on my plate, I used my hands to show the movements of the cargo ships and tugboats, crates and trucks. "I watch out my window as I drink coffee and wake up - it's really lovely."

The orange structures seem to keep watch when the boats are away, standing tall, bright and proud against the clouds as they shift from fluffy white to ominous gray and the mountains across the straight or bay or whatever this body of water is called. The boats ferry people to and fro and I have vague plans to board one tomorrow night and watch the lights of the city from whatever exists over there across the water. I just hope - given my newly-drinking habit - they have a suitable selection of wine and/or cocktails. I do enjoy bellinis.


"I've never heard you speak," someone commented and I paused, wondering why she would have. "You do beautifully," she concluded and I grinned at her, unable to resist reaching to squeeze her arm affectionately.

The talk went quite well, though I was, as is typical, exhausted and euphoric when it was over. I have a mostly free day tomorrow and plan to fill it with a bit of shopping and a lengthy massage.

I feel, overall, much more stable than I did. I talked to someone about the fibroid and found his perspective oddly soothing even as it was completely pragmatic. I feel good about my performance on this trip - it wasn't so incredible that I'm superior about it, but it was a solid effort. Good on me.

As happens each evening since my arrival, I'll meet with a group of people and begin drinking within the next hour or so. We hit one of the hotel bars to start, find a nice place for dinner and wine then find a different lounge for a nightcap. At which time I start stumbling around with sleepy eyes and constant giggles.

Good city. Good trip. Good alcohol. I could have done a lot worse to recover from being overwhelmed with my life.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Dear Blogfriends,

I had what I plan to call an 'anxious episode' last Friday. The plane landed and I navigated multiple construction zones to arrive at home. Seeing that my lawn needed to be mowed and house required cleaning, I thought of all the work that waited at the office and how I risked disappointing Little One if I didn't make it home for the dance recital. I was worried about Friend and had all these tasks jumbled in my head as I tried to collect items to pack of my current week-long adventure.

And I ended up lying on my bed, eyes closed and trying desperately to get enough air. Unable to breathe and feeling my heart race, I became more frantic as I was unable to figure out what was wrong. I ended up taking an Ativan, waiting several minutes and finally growing calmer until I was unconscious, curled safely into pillows and ignoring each of the problems and needs and stresses before me.
So I took a few days to tackle the most immediate need and focus. Still, I missed you.

Love, Katie

Dear Sprout,

I love you. I think you're very pretty with your long whiskers and stripey coat and green eyes. But must you scold me the entire trip to Grandma and Grandpa's? Do you not enjoy it when we arrive? Did you not pout over being left without a Katie and a Chienne the past week? Was the constant, shrill meowing really necessary?

With promises of rubbing under your chin if you just shush during car rides,

Dearest Little One,

I remember my four years in that building where you performed on Saturday evening. Your grandpa and I went to the lobby to find my name located on a plaque that still held the names of the top 10 graduating seniors. I chased Smallest One (who is remarkably fast, actually) through hallways I recalled vaguely and classrooms I remember no more clearly.

What will, I'm sure, linger in my memory is the stunning sense of love and pride and awe that gripped me as soon as you tapped on stage in your shiny, black shoes. From the first bar of music, through every single step and until the frilly skirt of your polka dotted dress disappeared behind the curtain, I cried because you're so impossibly wonderful. And I get to be your Aunt Katie and visit far too little and talk to you on the phone and buy you presents and cuddle with you on the car ride home.

I would not stand in the driveway while cars drive by to learn a Katie the Kangaroo routine for anyone, Little One. But, for you, I will hop like whatever animal you like.

All my love,
Aunt Katie

Dearest Smallest One,

You are remarkably fast.

You are also this bright bit of sunshine in an all-too-worrisome family. Your smiles and boundless energy, the way your lips pucker for kisses when anyone bends to scoop you up, the eager way you reach for books and carefully examine pictures, grinning brightly and babbling when you see something you know. You said SpongeBob upon seeing him on a cover (and continued saying it until we left the shop, which would normally be excessive but was utterly charming from you) and tucked fruit snacks in my mouth while we rode in the car (sharing is a lovely trait). You toddle around, personality as strong as it is bright, and - even as I scurry to chase you - I think you're remarkably wonderful. Different than your sister but capable of inspiring equal love and pride and awe.
All my love,
Aunt Katie

Dear, dear Friend,

I am so terribly, deeply, profoundly sorry for your loss. For even when the death of a loved one is somewhat predictable, even when she was suffering, even when she knew she was destined for a place better than this, the loss is huge and terrible. And while I understood soon after meeting you that you'd face it, I prayed that it wouldn't come yet. And I'm so sorry and sad that it has.

I also feel this huge regret that I'm not there for you. That this job makes demands that I can't or won't ignore to attend to more important matters. I hope you're well - that what comfort is available is being offered and accepted. That you're able to rest and eat and that your family is coping as best you're able.
If there is anything I can do, I hope you let me know. In the meantime, you're all in my frequent prayers.
So much love,

Dear City that can use 'south of the border' to refer to America,

You're rather lovely! I'd heard good things, of course, but admit I'm quite impressed with the mountains and ocean, people and places.

I read in a guidebook that a ride around the park would be nice. I biked for the first time in years, following gently curving (but very crowded) paths and pausing to take photos. The mixture of mild exercise, the ocean breeze and bright sunshine cleared my head. For those 90 minutes or so, I felt happy and relaxed as I pedaled.

I also heard the cedar plank salmon was excellent. I'm not a big fan of salmon in general, but I'm wondering if the cedar plank is magical. The food here in general is quite good and I especially enjoyed the salmon.

I only drink bellinis in Canada. My great affection for and over-indulgence in them makes that a rather good thing. I've had a couple of other cocktails, two glasses of an excellent local Riesling and a glass of Pinot Noir. Given that I arrived about 36 hours ago, that's a lot of alcohol for me. But it does help the 'sleep and relax a little' philosophy.

With tipsy kisses and a slightly sunburned nose,

Local birds,
Hi. I'm not a huge fan of birds in general, but I do find the way you pose for pictures rather cute. So the annoyances which always occur (a cab driver yelling something about my legs this morning and making me feel ever so self-conscious about the length of my dress and height of my heels, waiting a few hours for my room to be ready and then another hour for my luggage to arrive, having roaming cell service when we're not that far from the US) seem rather moderate.
After all the room for which I waited has this gorgeous view and is generously sized. I'm sleeping rather well given the 'west coast bonus' of being 2 hours later than my home time zone. And I am enjoying the activities - business and pleasure - so far.
Still, if you happen to poop on that driver's car, I'll try to find a suitable treat for you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


There is a moment that occurs some mornings, when all remains sleepy and slow, where I pause and think that I am unthinkably blessed.

It happened this morning, sometime just after 6:00 on the east coast, after I'd slipped into a dress and applied make-up. My skin looked pale - as it tends to do - but healthy. My hair swung, dark and shiny, as I looked down to decide on shoes. Stepping into the red pumps, I smiled for a mere second before wincing in pain. Such pretty shoes that bring such pain. Ever practical, I kicked them off and slipped on my black flats with a quick sigh of regret.

There are other moments where my heart hurts. When I pause again, this time to think that the world ruled by a God I believe is loving and just can't possibly hold such horror and cruelty. Rarely do the two moments happen in the same day, but I had the second, just before 8:00 on the east coast, staring into bright blue eyes at a security checkpoint.

The military buys a reasonable amount of medical equipment so it's not a particularly rare occurance for me to trudge through security or wait for an escort when I arrive on base. This morning, waiting patiently in my rental car, I proceeded past one uniformed man, thinking him quite handsome with his square jaw and sharp features, and stopped at the second person.

"Good morning," I offered, already reaching for my ID to hand him. I glanced up, plastic gripped between two fingers and smiled before feeling my heart ache and stomach clench. Even as he offered his own, "good morning, ma'am," I wanted to ask how old he was. When the braces on his seemingly-straight teeth would come off. I nodded and pulled into the spot he instructed, biting back my inquiries over his happiness and comfort.

Once suitably approved, I drove past the soldier at the parking garage, nodding politely and wondering what had happened to his eye, protected as it was by a plastic patch. I thanked the group who motioned for me to exit the elevator first, noticing when I stopped to check on the conference room location that they moved slowly to allow for one of their group to limp with them.
The bustle abruptly stopped, and I with it, when the national anthem was played. I obediently turned to face the flag, displayed nearly as often as clocks announced military times, and unobtrusively glanced around the men in my line of sight. They looked proud, I decided, feeling intensely proud of them. Then I walked, quickly and quietly courtesy of my black flats, to my destination. Sitting through my meeting, I was rather disconcerted, finding myself peeking out the glass door and into the corrider, looking for injured.
We are, as a company, trying to help. I normally feel pretty good about our efforts toward the armed services. I'm not sure what to say about today - there were moments of appreciation and pride and those of horror. And that's proving much harder to reconcile than flats versus heels.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Better than Expected

I missed four more calls from my doctor. The 'nothing scary' part is that they're 99% certain it's a fibroid and not a malignant mass. The 'pretty freaking scary!' flipside is that it's big. And, given the way it's shoving at my right ovary (Have you seen images of your ovaries? They're rather pretty.), they think it should be removed. So while I've stopped picturing my corpse, lying in wait for people to pay their last respects, I instead imagine myself unconscious while being cut open. I guess that's better, but it's still rather morbid and icky. Anyway! I'm grateful it's not dangerous but remain sorry it's there at all. Ick.

I had been dreading a meeting today. I got on a plane quite early, shoved my suitcase in an overhead compartment and took my seat. I wrote part of my talk - I'm being all sincere and Katie-esque and am getting rather excited about the whole thing - and obtained a rental car. Once a valet took it at the hotel, I pranced inside, red heels clicking on the polished floors and touched up my make-up before a salesguy picked me up. He looked at my shoes, grinned at me - all sweet friendliness - and didn't comment.

The meeting - filled with staff scientists who were as young as they were male - was a bit as I feared. Scoffing statements and brash comments that were only half true. Yet they listened and I made some points and only had to stare at my shoes to remember I was smart and confident and a little silly before continuing to politely battle back. Still. I was glad when it was over and even more pleased when I returned to my hotel and finally checked in, opening my door mere minutes later to tip the nice man who brought the luggage I'd checked earlier today.

After I'd gotten all excited, Adam wanted to take the talk from me and give it to someone else. I understand his point and offered my weak support to his plan, all the while despairing that it was my talk in front of thousands of people. I love our product! I love attention! I even had my outfit picked out! But it looks like a few key people (besides me) want me to do it. So I'm hoping I get to. Which will give me fits when I'm sick with nerves before I walk up to the podium, but still. Mine!

I do like traveling in the summer. Pretty dresses and skirts and sandals are much lighter than sweaters and slacks and sturdy shoes. My suitcase was delightfully easy to carry when the escalator was broken. What I like even better is being nearly done. I'm a single meeting away from a long nap tomorrow afternoon and an early plane back to home. While not perfect, I'm feeling better than I thought I would.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Twinges of Panic

I looked around at the bright blue sky, nary a cloud in sight, as several of us paused after stepping from our cars. Alarms blared from speakers mounted on our modest building and we glanced at each other, eyes shaded by sunglasses or squinted against the bright light, and listened dubiously at the extreme weather warning that demanded we seek shelter immediately.

"Good morning," I chirped at one of our security guards and he grinned at me, indicating he thought it was a drill before motioning to the beautiful day outside the glass doors. I smiled back at him, shuffling along in the chattering stream of engineers and managers, all of us heading downstairs.

Once herded into windowless hallways and labs, we milled about. Some people had grabbed cups of coffee on their way. Others, like me, had arrived late and carried bags. We removed our laptops and found chairs, beginning to work as we were safely tucked away. I began to get oddly nervous, finally deciding it was more the crowd than the closed in space. While not a bit claustrophobic, I find myself uncomfortable around crowds. I was therefore relieved when the alarm changed tone and told us the threat had passed and we were free to resume our work.

I breathed easier once I emerged from the stairway, still immersed in a crush of bodies as we all moved along a fairly narrow path. It wasn't the crowd that unnerved me, I realized. It was the unknown. I didn't know the purpose of the drill or how long we'd be kept in the shelter areas and while it seemed silly at first, I grew increasingly twitchy as alarms sounded and offered repetitive warnings without any real information.

I checked my voice mail this morning, moving rapidly through people who needed me for work purposes, but pausing when I heard my doctor's voice. "Nothing scary," she assured, "but we need to talk about what's next." She was out today and I'm traveling for the near future so I'm left feeling tense. I want to know and formulate some plan - trips to Europe and Asia have been been left unplanned since I don't know what I'll need to have taken out of my pelvis this summer. Ignorance, in this case, is far more stressful than blissful.

I'll admit to a preening thrill over this upcoming talk. I rarely get to pretend I'm a Big Deal and this is a rather nifty opportunity. When hearing there would be announcements for the presentations, I reminded myself to snag one so I could put it up in my office. Simultaneously, I realize it's my first appearance at this particular conference. So standing up to give a major presentation is hardly the perfect way to start. I prefer to observe and process, develop strategies based on what seemed to work and flop.

Not knowing is scary. But we already knew that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stress, Numerically

To the fourth power
I received an email this morning. People are tired of hearing me say the cost does not outweigh the benefit. So they didn't just go over my head. They went over my boss's boss's boss's head. Which is fine, I guess, but it makes me want to do all in my power to make sure the giant company does not do what these people want.

Cast of thousands
I've given talks to small groups. Regardless of how important the attendees are, I tend to embrace the intimate gatherings. I enjoy the questions and comments and establishing a rapport. I like talking to hundreds a bit less, though I can pull it off. There is a pretty intense amount of stress beforehand but I can level out soon after climbing the steps to the podium and deliver a reasonable message. When faced with a last-minute request to address about 2,000 people, I'm starting to freak out.

Minus One
Chienne went home with my parents as I'll be traveling most of this week and all of next. I miss her. A lot. When I go to sleep, wake up, sit down with my laptop as I drink coffee, come home from work, have a late supper - there's this strong sense of something being missing. While it is nice that Sprout is getting extra attention - he sleeps in her spot and sits in her chair now - but I still miss the puppy.

There are still bugs. After forty-four revisions, there are still bugs! And they aren't even that hard to find! Which makes me utter another word that begins with f.

I left work, walking through the last of remaining daylight and admiring the blossom-laden trees scattered throughout the parking lot. It was late and I was tired, knowing I had yet to pack. I left my laptop in the car, knowing the rest of the problems and concerns will still be there tomorrow.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Take Care.

Friend called this morning. Without telling too much of a story not my own, I'll say that she and her family are still waiting for her mother's surgery. And that she sounds - as she does a majority of the time - impressively strong and startlingly funny.


"What time did Mom leave?" I asked my father on Thursday. I smiled when he said he was coming too - they'd be here in a little over an hour. So the dog, cat and I waited for my parents to arrive - racing eagerly (Sprout upstairs and Chienne and I toward the garage door) when they got here. We ordered pizza and talked before heading to bed a few hours later.

"Drink your water," they reminded me when I descended the steps Friday morning. Mom moved to fetch the giant bottle of Evian she'd brought with her and I frowned.

"I only need to drink 32 ounces," I pouted, unscrewing the lid and beginning to sip. "This is 48." But, under their close supervision, I swallowed more and more water before the deadline - an hour before my appointment.

"Nice, full bladder," my technologist said as she moved the ultrasound. I nodded, staring at the ceiling while I thought of how Dad worriedly told me there's a history of uterine cancer on his side. How Mom, who I'd left in the waiting room, keeps reaching to hold my hand.

"I can't tell what it is," the technologist spoke again and I turned my head to look at her as I nodded. "I'm not even sure if it's an ovarian or uterine mass."

"It's uterine," I said softly and she nodded but warned me they might want additional tests. I nodded again, thanking her before asking where the restroom was.

Bladder blessedly empty and hand in Mom's again, we walked from the hospital and to my car, deciding to go fetch Dad so we could get breakfast. Hours later, I waited in front of my building for them to come fetch me.

"My parents are coming for me," I told a colleague when he gave me a befuddled glance. He paused to talk for a few minutes until I saw the Jeep come around the corner. He teased me about being a child and I thanked him for waiting with me so I didn't become frightened on my own.

We went for dinner and talked. Brother called to see how I was. We went shopping today. I heard Mom tell Aunt we didn't know anything yet. Decorative bunnies guard my front door - Chienne has carefully examined them and deemed them good. I planted flowers - pretty purple and sunny yellow - in the bed beside my driveway.

I could be sick. I am concerned. But I think it'll be OK - we're all doing a credible job of reassuring each other of that.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Priority Progress (Perhaps)

In a couple months - and after many more trips - I will move past Year 0 in Industry. Where I have doubtless struggled the most is with understanding priorities - feeling overwhelmed by the workload and unsure of how to tackle it, being terrified that I'm underperforming even when I'm working 90% of my waking hours, and wondering how in the world I can sustain this pace and level of dissatisfaction with myself.

Adam is nothing short of thrilled with my recent progress in this area. He raved at my review, noting how concerned he'd been earlier this year and how something major had shifted because everything was great now.

"I decided to make you happy," I told him simply.

He blinked at me, sitting back in his chair, and I shrugged. "I had been trying to decide what was best for the business - make a difference for every customer, never fail to follow through, research all these options that might become relevant based on what I knew and heard. And we reached a point where I was unhappy with how I was doing and you were even more displeased. So I decided - since I clearly couldn't decide myself - I'd just do what I was told."

He nodded slowly and I shrugged again. "You tell me to make slides? I make slides. You tell me to go somewhere? I get a ticket and pack a suitcase. You want to talk at 5AM on Tuesday? I roll out of bed and answer the phone. I'm supposed to spend 3 hours on the phone with China next Monday night? Tell me what number to call.

"And," I continued, warming to my topic, "the hell of it is that I was also doing it to prove you wrong. It wasn't easy to get everything done and Industry would certainly fall to pieces if I stopped trying so hard! But as I started doing things in the order you told me to, you were happier and actually listened when I made suggestions about what I wanted to do. And I started delegating because when I was working for you, someone had to work for me. I don't like asking someone to do what I technically could - given the time. But it seems to all work out."

"I'm always right," he noted, grinning when I rolled my eyes. "And I'll tell you that you're smarter than I ever realized. I knew you were bright - driven and educated and a valuable resource. But you manage people brilliantly. You execute like few people I've seen. You're fun to work with and people miss you when you're not around - something about your energy and questions and respect for what people say. It's special. And when you were running around - not doing what I told you to do - I didn't see it."

I patted his arm in thanks for the compliment and frowned as I thought. "But I still don't know how to do it myself." He raised an eyebrow so I elaborated. "I don't like that I need instructions before I feel comfortable with my goals."

"You're getting it," he assured me. "You decide more than you think you do."

I shook my head, opening my mouth to disagree.

"I'm always right," he reminded me. "Go back to work."

And - because that's what I do - that's what I did.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Briefly (after a long day)

"Hello, toes!" I chirped when I looked down at my feet in peep toe flats. I'm adorable and comfortable, I decided happily.

"Good point," I offered, glancing across the table to make sure the organizer was taking notes. I'd gone first in the agenda of presentations and nodded at the global feedback that was arriving via phone and computer.

"So bored," I whispered to the colleague on my right. The class had lasted over two hours and much as I shifted in my chair and glared at the people prolonging the torture by asking questions, I knew there was much dry material left to cover.

"No, thanks," I declined the offer of lunch out in favor of Cinco de Mayo day in the cafeteria. "I'm trying to finish presentations and savor my hour free of meetings. I'll go next time." So I hurried back to my desk, taco salad in hand, and worked on files for about an hour.

After several consecutive meetings, I sat at my desk and sipped the mint tea I'd fetched. I sighed when my next appointment arrived, moving around my desk to join him at the table arranged in one corner. "Your approach is flawed," I finally interrupted. He tried to deflect my input and I held up my hand. "We take criticism all the time. If you notice that everyone in the building is defensive when you talk to them, you need to change your tone or words or both. In this case, it's not us, it's you. And if you want us to help you, change your attitude."

"I'm done," I murmured, glancing at my calendar and scowling when I realized I was wrong. I had a last-minute meeting scheduled from 5-7PM, leaving me with an unheard-of two hours to spend before my next commitment. I worked diligently, oddly untempted to go home as I waded through old email - answering questions, completing tasks and getting caught up. It was delightful.

"Are we meeting now?" I texted a colleague. We started at the same time, so I feel rather like siblings. There's a tiny bit of rivalry, but we also share tips and secrets in an attempt to succeed and remain reasonably sane. She appeared five minutes later - I win on promptness - and she did experiments on me for two hours - she wins on determination. I did a few experiments of my own after she finished - multi-million dollar labs indicate it can be hard to get access.

"Don't care," I repeated as she listed dinner options. She decided on Pan Asian and I followed her to the restaurant, both of us toting our laptop bags to the table and discussing work projects and strategic initiatives. When the owners extinguished the lights, we were mid-discussion on how to use Outlook to hyperlink to documents! So you can add tasks and calendar items and update documents without going to My Folders! (It kind of blew my mind - Sibling is awesome.)

"Chienne? Sprout?" I called, the latter arriving first since he's a bit quicker. I filled his dish and smoothed his stripey coat before my girl made her way downstairs for cuddles. She's now in bed again.

Sleepy time. The first meeting tomorrow starts an hour earlier than today.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I meant to tell you.

Re: This post. I did know the guy. He was kidding. Nothing happened.

Re: The next post. Tenderheart is a brown bear with a red heart on his tummy. He got old (like me). Upon the 25th Anniversary of the Care Bears, Tenderheart was released as a white bear with silver accents. I have both of versions. In full size and miniature. (I know. Whatever you're thinking of me - I know.)

Lush gives excellent service. I went to the store at Ala Moana and wanted the Night in for Two so M and I could do facials. They were out of the Ultra Bland sample sizes, but - because I had asked when I didn't see a display - made up a special little box full of products for us. I thought that was lovely and thanked the two women profusely. Then I bought a whole lot of bath products because I like fizzies and bubble bars. Last night, I used a Sex Bomb and, because I was a bit gloomy, also tossed in Sunny Side. I felt relaxed, happy and sparkly (though the glitter did not stick to my skin) when I climbed out of the tub and into bed.

I had my review for 2008 at work. I am officially outstanding and getting better. I was surprised to hear this, but incredibly flattered and pleased. I may end up being all powerful if I can continue to give my heart and soul to Industry.

I had to force myself to go to church. I knew it was important and that I should go, but felt little desire to actually do it. Given that, I think it worked. Praise be to God.

I did wear the red shoes. With the short dress. I ended up wincing at the pain in my feet and tugging at the hem of my skirt. But I was not boring! And I did enjoy the compliments and looking at my shoes during the day.

I had a massage when I was vacationing. My therapist loved my energy. And my giggle. I'm always happy when people like me.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Shoes

“Wow,” he commented when he opened the box. I looked up from my examination of my wallet, searching fruitlessly for the department store credit card, and tucked my hair behind my ear as my expression went from annoyed to inquisitive.

“Oh,” I replied upon seeing what had elicited the remark. “They’re cute, aren’t they?”

“Red high heels?” he grinned at me. “They’re very nice, but not necessarily cute.” I opened my mouth to reply, realized I didn’t know what to say, blushed a bit brighter and shrugged. Having checked sizes, he returned them to their box and replaced the lid.

It will come as no surprise to anyone when I announce that I am boring.

Today, for example, I woke up and said good morning to my dog. I came downstairs and filled Sprout’s bowl with kibble before making coffee. Frowning darkly when I realized a colleague hadn’t replied to my Important Work Request, I answered a few notes, finished a blog post and looked at the clock.

I took a quick shower and put on clothes before heading to church, unable to decide if the plain glass windows made me admire their simplicity or if I missed stained glass. I repeated statements and sang songs from memory, more pleased with the acoustics created by the gently curving wooden ceiling than with any emotional connection to the service. I was vaguely bothered by the splitting of communion into bread and then wine rather than bread and wine at once – the latter is just more efficient. I was more concerned that I wasn’t feeling inspired to be more faithful.

“Don’t write that down,” I nearly said after the woman before me used a pencil to place my name on her bulletin in shaky script. “A couple months,” I had replied when she asked how long I’d been in town, blinking in surprise over the lie and baffled as to why I’d told it. I turned down her invitation to join the congregation for coffee, worried I’d tell them I was a circus performer and had flamingos for pets.

I pulled neatly into a spot at work, wandering to one of the labs and preparing for tomorrow. Pleased with my progress – I am learning and becoming more useful! – I straightened up and left a couple hours after I arrived. Tempted to go home, I decided that shopping appealed so I made a quick detour to wander aisles and rifle through racks.

I started with shoes and immediately coveted the red pumps. Peep-toe with a moderate heel, I lifted one shoe from its playful display and smiled before replacing it on the shelf. I walked around, slipping off my sensible beige flat to try on equally pieces of footwear, and ended up where I started, looking at the red heels.

I frowned as I pranced around in them, trying to balance mild discomfort versus aesthetic pleasure. The latter won pretty easily and I tucked the box under my arm as I searched for an outfit worthy of the flirty shoes.

Not much later – I’m pretty decisive – I stood in the fitting room with khakis and knit top neatly folded in the corner. I looked thoughtfully at the dress I was wearing, a black and white print shapeless as it was short. I smoothed it over my hips, gasping with delight when I found pockets. I can carry my cell phone and feel when it vibrates! I won’t have to look in my bag for lip gloss! Immediately deciding it was a delightful garment, I paused and reached for the shoes.

“Hmmm.” I murmured as I turned, realizing attention was drawn immediately down a good deal of exposed leg to my feet. After a moment’s consideration, I decided it was a good departure from what I’d typically wear. At least it wasn’t painfully boring.

When my blush faded from the clerk’s comment, I headed home and ran upstairs to try on my outfit again. With black flats – I have three pair of those – the dress is adorable. It has a high neck and cap sleeves and a rather retro pattern – very cute. With the red heels, I’m nearly – but never quite – sexy. It’s like I don’t mind if people notice where the hem hits well above my knees or how the silky material skims over curves.

The problem is, I might mind a little. It’s an odd feeling for me so while I’ve decided to wear the dress tomorrow, I’ll have to let you know if I end up with adorable black or sexy red on my feet.

Dandelions, pine cones and bright green grass

It's rather lovely to have put the camera away.

I felt like I was constantly snapping photos, trying to capture images of the impossible beauty that surrounded me in the south Pacific. It's more pleasant than stunning here - various shades of green as the grass grows happily through weeks of alternating rain and sunshine. There are still, fluffy clouds in a pale blue sky and the buds on different trees appear in various soft green hues. There are the occasional daffodils and tulips, appearing as small pastel patches amidst a palette of rich earth tones and the river reflects the scene faithfully.

"Well, come on," I told my dog, motioning her out the door. We stepped into the sunshine and she soon flopped on the grass as I picked up sticks and bits of trash before starting the lawnmower I'd tugged from the shed. I walked over the slope that comprises the backyard - far more Chienne's than mine - and skirted bushes and trees that previous owners had planted.

I thought, as my hands went numb from the mower's vibrations, that the pinecone nestled at the base of the tall tree with long needles was rather pretty. That the dandelions should probably be poisoned, even if they did look rather sweet and happy throughout the yard. I waved at my neighbor as she pruned a tree that was beginning to bloom in bursts of white. And I breathed in the familiar grassy scent as my neighbors and I worked in buzzing harmony to trim yards.

I gasped with utter joy when a red sign announced an opening date for the Target being built not 2 miles from my house. "July!" I told Chienne, for she can't read, and she dutifully wagged her tail as she perched in the passenger seat, red gas can newly filled in the back of the Jeep.

I laughed on the phone with Mom, looking forward to her upcoming visit. "You don't need to be here," I offered as the girls played in the background. "It's just an ultrasound." But I was relieved when she insisted. My parents do take care of me - deck and balcony freshly painted, books alphabetized (I don't know why) and house clean from their last visit. But we rarely spend time together without distractions.

Sprout is standing guard at the patio door - he likes the sun, but grows frustrated with his inability to kill the birds that chirp nearby. I believe I'll find a church and worship this morning and spend the remainder of the day getting caught up at work.

It's not photo-worthy, but it is rather nice.