Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Skirt Length

“That’s not too short,” my friend offered when I crept out of the bathroom in our hotel room.

“Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly, tugging at the hem. “Because I’ve been yelled at on the street twice now and it seems that should be enough of a lesson that the outfit is inappropriate.”

“No,” she replied slowly, frowning as she considered it. “You’re allowed to show your knees. It’s fine.”

I returned to the full mirror on the wall and stared at the reflection of my lower half. The print dress of which I’m so fond – with the pockets and fluttery sleeves and demure neckline – is causing me no small amount of dismay. When traveling once, I was the recipient of a variation of a ‘nice legs’ comment that I took as sarcastic. I was not, however, acquainted with the man driving the car in front of the conference location so I’m not sure of his real intention. Then, a couple of weeks later, another comment was thrown my way – I didn’t decipher a single word – as I was walking to get gelato with friends from work.

I outwardly ignored both men, not being the type to reply to random idiots who shout out their car windows at passersby. But my stomach curled into a tight knot and stayed clenched for hours afterward. Yet I packed the bit of fabric as my back-up outfit for my latest trip and told my friend she was to honestly evaluate it for propriety’s sake.

“You’re fine,” she insisted and I nodded, frowning sympathetically at myself in the mirror, feeling exposed and nervous and uncertain if I was rather adorable or painfully hideous.

“It shouldn’t be this hard,” I sighed, but, with one final tug at the hem, grabbed my bag and followed her out the door and down the hall. “I thought it was the shoes at first,” I belabored the point. “I wore strappy red heels with it at first.”

“Katie,” she scolded. “I told you the dress is appropriate. I think you look nice. Just relax.”

“It’s just that I hate having my perception proved wrong,” I insisted as we stepped into the elevator. “It’s like someone asking you to prom and getting all excited and then finding out he was joking.”

“Your dress is an immature asshole in high school?”

“I thought I looked pretty,” I explained and waved her off when she said that I did. “I know I’m not beautiful – that’s actually fine now. But I like wearing skirts and dresses and peep-toe shoes. And to think that I instead appear horrible and ridiculous is unsettling.”

“Then I suggest you settle,” she advised, not unkindly. “Because you’re very pretty and sweet and lovely.”

I nodded. But every time I've reached for the dress, standing mostly naked and rather sleepy in my closet, I pause and wince before selecting something else. Even as I hate that two idiots have that much power over my decisions, I don't know that I can handle a third comment. And I don't know how to make it stop bothering me.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Buttons and Pushing Thereof

“You download the software,” she said, looking entirely befuddled by the question raised after her presentation. “And you put in the data and push the button.”

“Right,” he said, looking around at us in what I suppose was a plea for greater understanding since he was getting little from the podium. “But have you thought of these confounds or considered those alternate approaches?”

“You push the button,” she insisted, looking rather annoyed and sending me into a fit of barely-suppressed giggles. I hid behind my notebook, peeking over the top of the pages to continue to watch their exchange after a talk that had been wildly simplified. It was clear she was using a technique she didn’t understand and her results were naturally a bit difficult to interpret because of that.

Another brave soul rose to help the first questioner, trying to restate the areas of confusion and offer suggestions on how they might be addressed. The speaker, who spoke flawless English (because language barriers are frustrating and sucky – I feel sympathy rather than amusement in those situations), looked increasingly frustrated with both men at the microphone and returned to a slide she’d shown previously.

I got up to scamper from the room, choking on laughter, when she used the laser pointer to circle the button insistently. “It’s right here,” she seethed. “The button on the bottom left!”

Because I am that sort of person, I have taken to using “push the button,” phrase whenever someone gives a talk or offers a response that makes it clear he or she has no flipping clue as to what happens after the magical program takes the data and generates some nifty result. Then – because I am also that sort of person – I have a moment of haughty superiority that I rather enjoy. Well, rather I did enjoy it.

I am, in my spare time, writing another chapter for a textbook. When given a topic where no approach has received full approval, I decided to cover the three likely suspects and take sections of chapters and papers I’d written before to get a basic outline going.

After throwing a bunch of text together in a giant document, I realized a year away from actually dealing with these algorithms has given me a nice amount of perspective. I’ve happily (if distractedly) set about revising some text and abandoning some paragraphs as I take another shot at explaining concepts that have long been important to me. I’ve learned – largely through talking to a variety of people in my current role and understanding that technical expertise varies widely even among very intelligent people – that adding simple pictures rather than just clinical examples can be helpful.

I came up with a simple concept when I was flying back from California, half-asleep as I curled up in my window seat. I began putting together a figure for the best methodology (which just so happens to be the one I’ve used personally) and nodded in immodest satisfaction at how well it worked to explain the concept.

I thought through the second concept I was to cover and decided my examples would work equally well for a graphical representation. But then I realized I couldn’t form a mental sketch of how that third method would appear.

“No,” I said out loud, refusing to believe such a thing. So I found a sheet of paper and clicked the end of a pen while I drew the beginning of my little example and then stared at the remainder of the page, having no idea what to draw.

“So you take the data,” I decided to talk out loud, watching Chienne and Sprout turn toward me to listen. “And then, well,” I paused, scrunching up my face so I could think very hard. “There are equations. And, you know, some rules.” My pets did not appear convinced and I shrugged at them rather sheepishly.

“I push the button,” I finally admitted. “I’ll just tell people it’s on the bottom left of the screen.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Update in Letters

Dear California,

I'm going to be honest because I think that's how relationships grow. I do not trust you. And, to continue along our forthright path here, it seems as though you don't care or wish to change my inherent suspicion.

It's like this - I hear you have a gorgeous coastline. Great! I shall make time to admire it. But then you coat the sucker with fog so I barely notice the ocean is there at all! And while my companions were impressed by the way the fog flowed smoothly up and down the mountains, I was set in my disappointment and in full pouting mode. I wanted ocean. You keep your silly fog.

I also understand you have excellent cuisine. I ended up grabbing a sandwich when you trapped me at an airport waiting for a friend's delayed plane (why do you insist on apples and brie on what would otherwise be a normal turkey sandwich? I suppose it was acceptable but, honestly, I keep shaking my head over your insistence on being different.) but we had tapas that evening with more colleagues. It was fabulous. The fruity sangria and nibbles of yumminess followed by churros which were so wonderful I could have made a deep and lasting commitment to love and cherish them forever and always. After multiple days of hit or miss meals, I went to a different tapas place with other friends and was powerfully disappointed. The churros were charred! Do not char-ro the churros! What is wrong with you?! You have great public transportation in some cities - which is lovely - but then actually using it is wildly inconvenient and time consuming! Do I want to sit and wait for a bus for 20 minutes? No. No, I do not.

You, California, are hot then you are cold. You are yes then you are no. You are in then you are out, up and you're down. (No, you will damn well listen to the song lyrics that you played incessantly when I was trying to drink!) I realize you are full of people who adore you and have many admirers elsewhere. But you may not count me among them. I merely tolerate you.

If, however, you're willing to work on your treatment of me and my feelings, I shall reconsider.


Dear Wine,

Hi! I smile and flutter my eyelashes at you as you wait in pretty bottles and swirl in graceful glasses.

You ease my yearning to leave crowded parties. You taste refreshing with cheese plates (which may or may not come from the happy cows - I never did see any. Freaking California.). I may have a glass of you while shopping and another while staring out the window at the ocean during a moment of unfogginess.

I held my glass out to a friend as she blinked tears away after talking to her parents and curled my fingers around the stem again after she took a sip and turned away. I sighed, returning to curl into a chair and gaze out the window into the sunshine. And somehow the act of sipping and savoring the grapefruit notes helped settle my nervous tummy and soothe my sad feelings.

With great fondness,

Dear Industry,

Please stop asking me to simultaneously focus on travel and continue progress on other projects. It's simply too hard. It makes me so tired.

There was the day where conference calls started at 4AM. By 10PM, when I was socializing with collaborators and customers, I was so exhausted that it hurt. I know problems are important. I understand - believe me - that nobody is backing me up while I'm out of the office. I will work weekends. I'll give you upwards of 12 hours of effort each day. But you must let me rest. Please. I'm begging you.

Kisses and everlasting (if exhausted and irritable) commitment,

Dear Friends,

I am happy you're doing well. It makes me giddy to see you again after long absences and if I hug for a little too long, it's just because I've missed you. I know I ignore you on Facebook - I never log in, honestly. I know it takes me too long to answer email. But I love that you're publishing papers, getting grants, having babies and falling in love. That's truly wonderful.

Taking time to sit - often drinking, sometimes eating - while we caught up was nothing short of lovely. Remembering there are people who can make me laugh until I'm nearly sick, that I can weep with sympathy while being told a sad story, that I can know someone well enough to cuddle close or rest my head on a shoulder when I'm a shade too tipsy - thank you. I'm very glad I know you.

Much love,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Katie gives two talks.

“That was great,” he offered and I turned, tucking my hair behind my ear when it swung forward. I cocked my head at the man who had been checking badges and herding people away from escalators (Dear People, Do not congregate near the end of the escalator. People run into you because the giant moving staircase continues to push us forward. Scoot scoot, Katie) and he smiled. “I came in when I heard you start talking so I could listen. Now I know something about what you’re all doing here!”

“That’s very kind,” I said, reaching for a boxed lunch with one hand while patting his arm with the other. “Thank you.”

“I mean it,” he insisted. “You did really well.”

“He thought I did really well,” I told a colleague as we walked to find a place to have lunch. I joined him at a table for a mild critique and then he too offered his compliments. I picked at my chicken salad and wished momentarily for the Chinese we’d consumed the night before.

“I’m doing what Adam says rather than arguing all the time,” I told him as we sat in a nearly-empty-but-quite-good place. I scooped more orange chicken on my plate and considered the hot sauce fish before taking some of that too. “My mom told me I should,” I concluded.

“Moms are smart,” he agreed.

Mine frowned when I returned home and immediately went out on the patio to answer a call from Adam.

“Hey,” I greeted as I dropped in a chair and wrinkled my nose at the temperature outside. Heat and humidity descended while I was away. “I just landed and my folks picked me up. How’s it going for you?” I giggled at travel stories and nodded as he caught me up on new developments.

“I think you should do it,” he concluded and there was silence while he waited for me to respond.

“Are you sure?” I asked, unable to decide if the thought excited or exhausted me.

“Of course,” he decided. “I know you just landed and I’m sure you’re tired, but I’d be most comfortable with you leading this.” I scowled as I realized I was flattered and would soon agree. Then I spent hours organizing documents and rehearsing remarks for a rather important annual meeting.

“You’re going to be late,” Dad said gently when he came to the door this morning. I grumbled and rose, shuffling to my closet to stare at hanging clothes. All my favorite outfits had been tossed downstairs after tugged from a too-full suitcase and were not yet laundered. Finally reaching for a skirt and light beige sweater, I wriggled out of pajamas and into pretty clothes, straightening my hair and plodding downstairs and my pretty cream flats.

“He thinks he did me a favor,” I offered blearily to my parents, terribly tired and not wanting to go present a summary of our activities to the business. “It’s a big deal with an important audience, but I’d just as soon not go in today.”

I perked up as my turn approached, rising from my seat in the second row to stride across the room with skirt fluttering around my knees to introduce myself and begin. The presentation flowed smoothly and I was proud of the way I moved through each idea and to the next, making eye contact with people, smiling at those who offered grins and winks and feeling comfortable and powerful as I commanded the attention of people in the room (and around the world via the telephone microphone positioned conveniently close to my podium).

“Nice job,” the most important man in the room nodded his approval after I finished and I mimicked the gesture with a murmur of thanks.

I'm getting it, I thought, and took the afternoon off to spend with my parents. I understand what we do and know enough to communicate that pretty effectively. Pretty good progress for a little less than a year.

I'm back!

I have been traveling.

I have now returned.

I am very tired, but will post again soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I stopped speaking and looked down, almost expecting to see the jumble of words that had emerged from my mouth in no comprehensible order scattered on the table. Maybe if I could find them, I could think very, very carefully and organize them in some recognizable thought.

Then I breathed in the wine that smelled temptingly of grapefruit and smiled as I reached for my glass again. Continuing to grin - for I am good-natured when tipsy - I glanced around the table and smiled and nodded.

"Wait. What?" I said politely, frowning as I attempted to force my brain to focus. I nodded as I listened then giggled. "I'm sorry," I apologized to my colleague. "I'm not going to remember that. Can you maybe remind me via email?" Thanking her when she nodded, I returned to my glass. "I like this wine," I told Sibling. "It smells like grapefruit."

Beginning to gulp water as I nibbled steak and potatoes, I tried to sober up. I eventually felt more sleepy than drunk and waved goodnight before wandering to my car. Pausing, I thought carefully about how I felt, balancing the single glass of white wine against the six glasses of water and full meal.

I arrived home safely - if sleepily - and greeted my parents and puppy. After hugs, kisses and a tiny bit of conversation, everyone went to bed. That leaves me with a small bit of packing left to do and another lengthy trip to anticipate.

But the words still don't seem to orient themselves properly. I'll work on it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


“This day sucks,” I announced, dropping into a chair in a conference room with as my team gathered. “Suckity suck, suck, sucks.” Nods of agreement were offered in response and I opened my laptop and began to discuss an upcoming presentation. After we finished, I offered to send notes and a new formats for our slides and glanced around when nobody left.

“I’m done now,” I finally said, wondering why that hadn’t been obvious.

“What was wrong with your day?” PrettyHair asked. I paused, thinking through any number of problems before settling on the most upsetting.

“I was scolded,” I replied glumly. “Something wasn’t ready for a customer – even through it’s always been ready in the past – and the right people weren’t in the building to fix it and I was told – with a shaking finger and everything! – that I should have had that done. But I shouldn’t! I don’t think that’s in my realm of screwing up! So I’m sad.”

“Someone told me I didn’t know what I was talking about,” Sibling offered after my moment of sympathetic looks and pats. We turned our pity her direction before allowing TinyFriend to take her turn.

“It got better,” I said thoughtfully after swallowing a bite of pistachio gelato. “The day,” I clarified when TinyFriend and Sibling turned to look at me. They nodded, returning to their after-dinner treats. I tucked my feet under the bench where we sat, all of us watching the river rush before us. We’d stopped for drinks and tapas before fetching dessert, settling in a park by the water and watching random people wander across quaint bridges and pause to watch the setting sun.

I glanced past where TinyFriend was shivering in the cool evening air and smiled at Sibling. We’ve been having issues of late, both of us growing in our roles and seeking additional power. Due to drastic differences in viewing problems, we produce exceptionally good results but require a bit of arguing to get there. Travel schedules and snippy comments have left us at odds and I finally felt those squabbles had been smoothed over after our evening out.

I came home to a happy puppy and hungry kitten, cuddling one before putting in her drops and scooping food into the other’s empty bowl. I snuggled into pajamas and felt quite good about leaving my laptop in the car. I did have a few sucky moments today, but the day wasn’t all bad.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


"Thirty-four," he said, looking at me with sincere regret. I nodded and he apologized again.

"No," I finally said. Chienne's eye doctor had numbed her eyes after examining them and measured the pressure.

"Too high," he mumbled after looking at the measurement on the blind eye. Shaking the instrument, he pressed buttons on its side and offered that he'd recalibrate while I looked at the tech with worried eyes.

"You're a good girl," I told my dog, cuddling her as she leaned against me from her perch on the table. "Such a good girl," I murmured again as the doctor pressed the monitor against her eye.

"You warned me," I said once Chienne was on the ground again. "The injections sometimes don't work. I, um," I paused, blinked and swallowed. "I don't want you to take her eye," I whispered. "I'm sorry," I said as I took the tissue the tech offered. "I just needed more drops and expected that everything would be fine when you checked. I wasn't ready."

It appears I should brace myself. I brought the puppy home with instructions for a more intensive drop regimine. We scheduled another surgery for one more injection. We do not believe she is miserable though she's likely mildly uncomfortable.

I, conversely, am seriously sad.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I am without a partner. And I will continue to be in said state indefinitely.

While on a personal level, I am trying (in sort of a vague way, but still - effort is effort). On a professional level, I'm entirely screwed.

"Did you mean it?" I asked Adam, eyes narrowed accusingly.

"Probably," he replied cheerfully, already laughing at me. "What are we talking about?"

"You replied to an email and said that you weren't hiring a buddy for me. Instead, you were filling another vacant position." I gasped with melodramatic dismay when he nodded. "But you said I'd have help!" I cried.

"You're doing fine," he said, already looking at the next set of documents.

"People warned me," I continued to complain though I was secretly flattered that I was doing well enough to not appear inadequate, "that if I did well enough, the business would consider the two-person role a one-person role and I'd end up getting screwed." I paused for effect and he glanced up at me, not unsympathetically. "Have you any idea how hard - and how much - I work?!"

"I do know," he finally replied. "And I've told you to set limits and priorities and to let some things wait. You're incredibly," he paused until I narrowed my eyes in warning, "driven." He grinned at me and let me smile back before he continued to explain that there was more benefit for the business to fill this other spot before pairing me with someone.

"This sucks," I pouted and he patted my shoulder once more before telling me to get back to work.

I'm doing better than I was - I do what I can, tackle what seems most important, and try to remember to stop sometimes. Yet I still start conference calls at or before 7AM and am currently listening to one that began at 8PM, scheduled to wrap up by 11PM. That's a long stretch of time to be thinking about my career, even if it is delightfully split into different projects so I rarely become frustrated or bored.

What I do, however, is grow exhausted. And I'm still wounded when people are disappointed in me - when I need to push a deadline back because I couldn't get to something or miss a meeting because something else came up. I'm dropping balls left and right, watching them bounce around me with regret but little energy to chase the suckers down and toss them in the air again.

I get - no exaggeration - about 250 emails every day. At least 4 hours of each 10 I spend at the office are in meetings, often far more. I am delighted when I can spend more than 30 minutes at my desk in silence, just thinking about a project or completing a document. I took this weekend off so I could submit shamefully old post-doc papers to a couple of journals and work on this chapter I was asked to write.

I went out for drinks last night with the girls, receiving scolding glances each time I answered my phone between sips of wine. I apologized after two hours, noting that my evening batch of calls was soon to start.

"Skip them," my friends urged and I shook my head.

"I can't," I noted regretfully. "I just can't make myself do it."

Hence, Katie = Totally Screwed. And in need of implementing this 'I have a life outside of work and therefore other priorities' plan.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Katie attends a party.

The city is charming, I thought as I inched forward in traffic, admiring the skyline and the swoops of entry and exit ramps as interstates crossed and flitted off in bypassing directions. I admired the old buildings, listening to Garmin as she directed me toward TinyFriend’s building.

“You will come to my home tonight,” she said, hovering in the door of my office yesterday morning as I blinked and looked away from the study of my monitor. I cocked my head at her, wondering why she thought such a thing and smiled when I remembered.

“Yes,” I promised. “The party. I know. I’ll be there.”

“You will come. You will not call and say you changed your mind,” she informed me, looking simultaneously bossy and hopeful. So I nodded again.

“Party,” I confirmed. “Tonight. Your place.” Yet, hours later, tired from multiple meetings and a rather impressive tantrum, I sighed with a fervent wish that I could change my mind. Pick up some groceries and huddle at home in pajamas. I reminded myself that I loved TinyFriend and dutifully stopped to pick up fresh bread, tapanade and a bottle of wine before driving resolutely toward her home.

The city, I seethed, circling the same three blocks for the sixth time, is ridiculously inconvenient. I couldn’t find parking and there were too many people driving and walking and the charm did not outweigh the multitude of people who moved among the lovely buildings and pretty view.

“How the hell far away from the intersection do I have to be?” I wondered aloud, pulling in behind a line of parked cars and noticing I was rather close to the end of the block. I closed my left eye and looked upward in concentration, trying to remember parking rules that I’ve mostly disregarded since my high school class and muttering before I decided to leave my Jeep and hope for the best. I looked around suspiciously as I walked the four blocks to TinyFriend’s, knowing I was being silly but already dreading walking back to my car after dark. There are (rare) shootings on the news! And I don’t know neighborhoods well enough to assess their worrisome nature, so I decided to fret intensely just to be safe.

“Hi,” I offered, walking into a lobby and holding my wine and bread protectively. “I’m looking for TinyFriend?” I smiled my thanks when he directed me to the appropriate apartment and unlocked the security door. I’ve never met a doorman before, I mused as the elevator ascended. I realized my first ferry ride had been very recent as well, deciding I was quite the country mouse and wishing I was home.

My heels clicked steadily beneath me as I moved toward the door with the proper number upon it. I knocked twice before being allowed entrance and smiled at the group of people – all from Industry – already gathered inside. Answering questions about wine preference and what I brought and how I was, I wondered why we had to see each other socially. Was I not attentive and lovely at work? For the 10 hours I spent there each day? Must we meet again? Yet, remembering Adam scolding me for not going out more, I steeled myself and summoned energy I didn’t have to converse and smile.

M said it wasn’t easy for anyone, I remembered of a conversation by the beach. That everyone got tired and impatient, that nobody really liked congregating with people but they forced themselves to do – and enjoy – it. I regarded her skeptically when she said it and thought her wrong once again. Some people, I decided as I looked around, genuinely enjoyed this. They relaxed into the chatter and nibbled on snacks. They sipped wine and laughed over familiar stories. They moved and mingled, shifting from group to group with a natural grace that I envied even as I forced myself to pretend I didn’t wish I was alone and in pajamas.

I smiled as a woman entered and felt a moment’s sympathy when people welcomed her with exaggerated shock. I ended up seated next to her about an hour later, both of us having sought the comfortable sofa in a quiet corner.

“I don’t come to these very often,” she explained and I nodded. We’re acquainted but have shared fewer the five conversations, all of them friendly but work-related. “I just like being home,” she admitted, sounding suitably ashamed of the fact.

“It’s quiet,” I said, smiling at her with complete understanding. “And after a day of talking and laughing and arguing, it’s nice to just relax after the mental effort.” I giggled when she looked at me with increasing fondness. “I like being home, too.” I confessed easily.

We engaged in conversation, discussing dogs (we love our respective canines very much), travel (enjoy the new cities, exhausted by the business trips), our homes (both in the suburbs, both with limited – though friendly – contact with neighbors) and other stories as others joined and left the conversation.

“We’re like the same person!” I decided after the third time we’d offered identical responses simultaneously. We giggled together and I realized I didn’t feel broken or alone. There were wonderful people – bright, funny, beautiful, charming – who simply preferred their own company on most evenings. I wasn’t wrong or broken or otherwise icky.

“We’ll go together in 20 minutes or so,” she offered when I tried to leave and was firmly rebuffed by the gathered crowed. (Apparently it was “too early.” I’d been there for 3 hours!) I nodded gratefully, sipping another glass of water and counting the moments.

There were four of us who departed in the first group, riding the elevator down together. “I knew you’d be friends,” one woman noted to me and my new twin.

“Of course,” I noted. “We’d hang out all the time, but we both like to be in our own homes.”

“We could talk on the phone,” Twin suggested and I nodded politely. “Actually,” she said after a moment, “I don’t like talking on the phone. So maybe not.”

“Oh, good,” I grinned at her. “I hate phone calls!” I waved to her when we reached our cars and headed home. I felt sleepy and sluggish, drained by the evening even more than the day at work, and was happy to greet Chienne and Sprout when I finally arrived at home. With lots of parking. And very few people.

Having accepted myself as I was, I decided to sleep today. I rose a couple of times, feeling a bit hung over and queasy, and did a bit of work. Then I curled back into my pillows and snuggled under fluffy blankets while the chilly, gloomy day went on unnoticed. I just enjoyed being at home.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Happy, happy

Already curled in her chair, eyes closed and paws tucked in neatly, I smiled at my puppy and called her name. She opened her eyes without lifting her head, regarding me with a sleepy curiosity.

"Would you like to go for a walk?" I asked her softly, smiling as her head lifted and ears perked. "Let's go," I chirped, rising from the couch to find my shoes and turning to see her stretch, tail beginning to wag. Setting off from the front porch, I trailed behind Chienne while she began to alternately trot and sniff. She pulled me toward the path through the forest and I happily followed behind her.

We returned home slightly winded - whether from the brisk walk or excessive sneezing, I wasn't sure. I coaxed the dog into the bathtub, smiling as she raised each paw daintily so I could wash her toes and, hopefully, relieve some of the allergic reactions. I kissed her head as I dried her off, finally patting her on the back and telling her to stay off the beds until her coat dried.

Other Smiley Occurrences
My bloodwork results arrived the the mail I fetched at the end of my walk. All is normal. I can proceed with my 'do nothing' plan for the fibroid. (I'm not altogether pleased with this plan, but I don't want someone inside me just to look around.)

My calendar - a present for my birthday - reminded me to send Friend's present. One part arrived today and it is Beyond Awesome. I totally want to keep it myself which is, I think, how one judges a good gift.

I had a burrito for dinner. How I heart guacamole.

A test I ran today passed. While a mere formality, I was nonetheless pleased that it went well.

I stopped in a crowded classroom and disrupted the whole schedule so I could speak at my convenience. It made me feel ever-so-knowledgeable and important.

Two men told me I have a beautiful smile. I call that consensus and declare that I do, in fact, have a beautiful smile.

My hair, newly cut in a style that swings above my shoulders, is downright adorable. With a bit of lipgloss and new haircut, I can stumbled toward the bathroom in the middle of the night, glance in the mirror while washing my hands and think, "Hello, pretty!"

I'm home! And I've been home for 2 weeks! And I don't travel for another 2 weeks! Goodness, but I love being in my house. In my bed. With my stuff. And writing blog posts.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Solution? Snow Fence

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, seeing the poo lying amid the soft carpet of my basement.

Sprout Marie!” I scolded (the animals share my middle name), seeing the tip of his stripey tail as he scampered upstairs. “This is not cool,” I muttered, holding my breath as I cleaned up the mess and fought my gag reflex. And when I emerged from the basement, I hissed at him. Furious when he merely blinked at me, utterly unimpressed, I clapped my hands and chased him throughout the house. Satisfied when he was huddled under the bed in the guest room, I came back downstairs and began to plot.

When trapped inside
, Sprout began to potty on the carpet. I don’t pretend to understand the true significance, but assume he was punishing me for Ruining Everything when it came to his social (and murderous) life. Unsure if he missed his friends or the thrill of the hunt (and my subsequent disgust over picking up rodent bodies), I decided that locking him out of the basement and moving his litter to the main floor was a small price to pay.

And, at first, it was. The half bath on the ground level is tiny, tucked next to a closet on the central hallway. But the litter box fit under the pedestal sink and, if you balanced on one foot, you could manage to close the door to get to the toilet behind it. Given that I stopped spending my mornings scooping bits of dead mouse into the trash, I happily gave the smallest of bathrooms to Mr. Sprout. But whenever the basement door was carelessly left open, he would continue to use the soft basement carpet. This left me annoyed then angry then enraged as I scrubbed and vacuumed and cleaned.

Left with this low-level resentment, I was bothered when Sprout would relieve himself while I was sitting in the living room. I don’t like hearing the stream of urine, nor do I want to smell poo. It destroys my cozy atmosphere! So, with wrinkled nose buried inside the neckline of my t-shirt, I would glare at the feline problem as his tiny paw pads spread bits of litter over my lovely ceramic tile.

“You could kill him,” Dad suggested, looking hopeful even as I rolled my eyes at him.

“I love him,” I replied in a resigned tone. “I’m his person and this is his home.”

“So he pees on his carpet,” Mom offered, shaking her head even as she smoothed the cat’s coat while he purred.

Today, as I suffered through a headache, I glared at him when he emerged from the bathroom not far from the loveseat where I lay curled in a corner. Tracking litter and leaving behind an unpleasant odor, he leaped on the loveseat next to me and bid me pet him. Even as I reached to rub his cheek, I considered how to keep him from the basement while simultaneously moving his litter box back downstairs.

“I want my bathroom back,” I told him and he blinked his pretty green eyes at me. “But you potty on the carpet,” I accused and he blinked again.

Chienne followed me down the stairs, much more receptive to my moods than the aloof feline. She cocked her head at me as I shooed her back, retrieving a hammer, some tiny nails and the roll of snow fence we used to create the Path of Awesomeness in the garage.

“It solved one problem,” I told the dog, going to my knees to stretch it across the threshold to the family room, pausing to let her kiss my chin. “And it will solve this one too. See?” I asked, beginning to nail one edge of the orange plastic to one wall of the staircase. “I’ll close off this side of the steps and force all of us to go through the utility room side of the basement.”

I paused to make sure she understood and she kissed my chin again. “Then,” I explained, “the lessons become relevant. We always walk toward the washer and dryer then cut through the bathroom to get to the carpeted area. That way,” I continued, hammering in the next nail, “Sprout remains locked out of the family room but can still use the utility room!”

Seeing that Chienne had wandered away to curl on one end of the old, comfortable couch, I sighed. “It’s brilliant, actually,” I insisted. “No cat waste on the carpet down here or in my bathroom upstairs!”

“Classy,” I grinned when the snow fence was in place, unable to decide if the orange was garishly hideous or stunning in its ingenuity. Making it worse (or better, depending on one’s perspective), I perched a framed poster on the ledge that rings the family room, preventing Sprout from scaling my Barrier of Awesomeness. I retrieved my hammer, put it away and walked over to pat Chienne on the head, turning to see Sprout investigating the new structure.

He ran when I circled through the bathroom to walk upstairs, gathering his litter and box and returning to the basement to place them in the corner. He investigated them, looking – I think – disgruntled that I had bested him.

“Ha,” I offered with great superiority and closed the bathroom door. “Snow fence - and I - rule all.”

Monday, June 01, 2009

No comments.

"I have something to say," I think as I leave tab after tab open in Firefox. Meaning to return to posts later in order to offer encouragement, support or compliments, I always feel guilty when I quit the program and lose my place.

I once prided myself on my commenting ability. I'd read carefully, taking time to fully understand what you were trying to say. I'd consider, draft, revise and then post my response, hoping it helped in some way. Yet now - even when I find time to tap out a few words - they feel inadequate and lame. More of a quick 'yep!' then a thoughtful and nuanced reply to words you took the time and energy to write.

I don't console myself with thoughts of being so busy or harried or even self-absorbed. I was trying, therefore, to justify my lack of ability as I climbed the steps to curl in bed and realized something. I opine all day. While not the decider, I am among a group of people responsible for making choices. We gather facts and opinions. We talk to people in person - both here and there, by phone and email. We ask questions, listen carefully and offer measured responses in return. We make judgment calls - this is good enough; that is not. We should invest in this but not in that. I like this idea, but not as much as that one so the former will have to wait until 2010.

I then go to work explaining the decision - whether pitching to bosses or gathering feedback from peers. I defend our choices to customers and listen carefully to criticism. I put all my mental energy into understand collaborators and why they have opposing views. I compliment colleagues in sister businesses because they deserve it and it pleases me to watch their expressions of happy surprise when I stop to say I think they did beautifully. I pause by a neighboring office to hear a random story, stepping inside to curl into a chair if I feel more attention is needed.

Given my need and affection for sleep, there is finite time and attention to be given. And the "um..." response my tired brain offers is so much less than I want to offer. So I leave tabs open because I care that someone is considering leaving grad school or working through a divorce or facing surgery. I've read scattered posts about moving forward and that matters. I think they're important and lovely or heart-wrenching. And I want to indicate that somehow - that I've read and care.

Yet another example of how prioritization must occur. In the meantime, I'm sorry I'm not doing better.