Monday, September 28, 2009

Bad, Worse, Worst

I did a Bad Thing with good intentions a couple of weeks ago. Even while doing it, I knew it was an offense that could be punished by dismissal and - for some reason I still don't understand - I did it anyway. I have since fretted that I'd be found out until I'm rather sick of myself. Tomorrow I shall fix it.

It turns out that fixing it is going to be painless and easy.

When you know something is wrong, do not do it.
When you do something wrong, fix it sooner rather than later to avoid excessive worry.

I have been double booking my calendar for at least 3 hours a day. Every day. This puts me in the near-constant situation of having to make priority calls on the fly, frantically trying to figure out which appointment I should keep when both seemed too important to initially decline. It sucks. I need to see Lesson(s) above and knock that crap off.

Anyway, it turns out that I blew off a rather important call when in the middle of another important call. So now I face a rather familiar task - apologizing all over myself and then going over what I should have done two weeks ago. It's ridiculous.

Move appointments I can't make. (Learned and implemented this week.)
Release guilt over disappointing people when they don't make my priority list and I ignore them.

There is a particularly challenging group I deal with. Upon being disappointed with a situation before, they reported me to my boss's boss. It turns out that my dislike of disappointing people is nearly canceled out by my annoyance at being tattled on.

Tomorrow, while dealing with Worst and Worse, I have to deal with these folks and deliver Outstandingly Disappointing News. I dread this. Completely. A lot. But it must be done (or so I keep telling myself). But my stomach is in knots just thinking of it.

Trust no one. Do not give timelines or make promises.
Fear not. They've already been angry and sought revenge. Why not let them try again?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dinner Party

Since I don't read comments (or personal email) at work, I decided that the first few folks who noted that lasagna was fine were right and went about executing that plan. So, dragging myself from work, I stopped to pick up groceries. While I wished I made a list (and did, in fact, have to stop again for cheese), it was actually a very simple and friendly dinner.

I started with a salad, tossed in a pretty green bowl. I melted candied ginger into the raspberry vinigrette and let the dressing cool before pouring it atop baby spinach, sliced strawberries, toasted pecans and a sprinkling of blue cheese.

For the lasagna, I browned the meat the night before, ending up with about a pound of ground beef and italian sausage for each pan. The sausage made the house smell wonderful - spicy and warm - as I sleepily browned the meat near midnight. After it was cooked and drained, I added marinara sauce (2 jars - one with basil and another with special olive oil or something) and let the mixture simmer for a bit.

While that was working, I warmed a half cup of chicken stock in another pot and then added a brick of cream cheese. After poking it with a fork and growing increasingly irritated, I reached for a whisk and a smooth mixture resulted. I regarded it suspiciously, but remembered that when Mom made this lasagna, it was beyond fantastic. So I yawned and grabbed my box of no-boil noodles and a glass baking dish.

Layering sauce-noodle-cream sauce 2.5 times (I didn't completely cover the top with noodles - I was running out of sauces) and using small coffee cups since I threw away my ladle (it was rusty, I think), I swore when I realized I'd forgotten cheese. Regardless, I covered the dishes (I did make two) with foil and tossed them in a 350 degree oven for about a half hour. Then I let them cool before making room for them in the refrigerator.

The next day, I bought cheese and sprinkled it on top and baked it for another half hour. Five of us ate all of the first pan and half of the second. It was really, really good. Plus, the presentation was simple - salad and lasagna went on the same plate and both serving dishes stayed on the table with a basket of bread and bottle of wine. One of the guys did dip his sleeve in the sauce, but it was several hours of friendly chatter and food.

Plus, since I'd prepped and cleaned the night before, doing only the salad immediately before everyone arrived, it was fairly simple to toss everything in the dishwasher after we had chocolate cream pie and everyone headed home.

So thank you for the support/suggestions. Now I have things to try when I next gather energy to invite people over.

Lasagna Recipe (Adapted from The Best Lasagna)
Half pound ground beef
Half pound of Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used your garlic salt)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
26 to 28 ounces (about 3 cups) pasta sauce
2 tbls. red wine (optional)

1 cup chicken stock
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tbls. white wine (optional )

1 cups mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan (there's some left in your frig)

6-8 no-boil lasagna noodles

2 cups cooked, well-drained broccoli, spinach, peans or other vegetables (optional)

Heat oven to 350.

Thoroughly cook the meat, (garlic, & herbs) in a large skillet breaking up the meat.
Stir in pasta sauce, (season to taste and add red wine if using).
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add cream cheese, turn heat to low and whisk until smooth, about 6 minutes. (Add white wine.)
Spoon a layer of the meat sauce into the pan as evenly as possible.
Top with 3 lasagna noodles - there will be spaces between them but they grow when they cook.
If using vegetables, toss them evenly over the noodles.
Pour half of cream cheese sauce over the noodles
Add more meat sauce.
More noodles, then cheese sauce, then meat sauce.
Then I did a third layer with only 2 noodles because I had a bit more meat sauce.
Spoon remaining meat mixture over the noodles as evenly as possible.
Top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan. (The recipe actually calls for shredded cheese throughout the layers. I think it would be too rich so I stick with cream cheese between layers and mozzarella/Parmesan on top.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
Let cool for 10-15 min or it will be too gloppy to cut well.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Break, Psychotic

I'm stressed. Exhausted. Circumstances at work are changing. The role of my group is continuously evolving. I feel I'm disappointing people at every turn and have little in my life outside the professional that could offer comfort. There is nary a man who finds me breathtakingly attractive. The friends I have, while lovely, are either far away or also involved in some professional upheaval. So when my parents invited me to drive several hours to meet them, Aunt and Uncle for an outing, I impulsively agreed.

"You know," I said, glancing around from the back of the van as we entered the parking lot. "You brought me here when I was little. I still have nightmares about it, I think."

"Stop," Aunt scolded me. "It's fascinating." Mom looked back at me and I mouthed 'nightmares!' and she smiled before patting my knee. We paid our admission and wandered up a series of ramps before entering the first of the structures we'd visit. Immediately upon entering, I felt dizzy with the flashes of memory - the dim lighting and enclosed spaces, the musty smell, the prickly feeling that unseen eyes were watching my every move. I was taken to many years ago when, as a much smaller Katie, I stepped through those same rooms, tugging on my parents' hands and asking when we could go home.

"Fucking chilling," I muttered, bracing myself against another shiver and tugging my gray sweater protectively across my chest.

"Are you cold?" Aunt said, misinterpreting my soft statement.

"Terrified," I corrected her promptly, scowling at the low ceilings and lack of windows. "Why is there so much crap in here?" I asked crossly and she shook her head at me. I was annoyed for a moment before Dad rolled his eyes behind her back and waited for her to wander away to admire a lamp in a dark corner. I tucked my hand through his arm and nodded in agreement when he said the creator of this place was a nutjob.

There was just too much of everything. It took us six hours to complete the tour (Aunt's fault - I would have been out of there within 30 minutes), leaving the place feeling exhausted and a bit sick. (Maybe I was the only one sick. But did you look at that first photo?! That's not cool!) But - seriously - this guy was a demented fucking wackaloon (and I do not use the term lightly) if there ever was one. What was lit - and there was little that wasn't dark and imposing - was almost always bathed in an evil, red glow. There was music - always loud, mostly slightly sharp - created exclusively by machines. Player pianos were around many corners were matched with increasingly large orchestras that played automatically when people moved past.

The "collections" were littered with duplicates, like someone seriously unbalanced was just shoveling stuff on shelves without regard to what existed in the nearby cases. Yet I moved through the small rooms and tried to breathe through my mouth when some spaces smelled overwhelmingly floral. I relaxed only in the moments when we escaped to the outdoors, lifting my face to the sunlight and sucking in the fresh air before braving the bowels of the attraction once again.

It was, I decided, like facing my childhood nightmares around random corners. Old, sightless dolls with matted hair that waited patiently for an opportunity to climb from their glass cages and hide under my bed until I went to sleep. Hundreds of carousel horses mounted to walls, all hurrying toward a doomed effort to escape. The sheer magnitude of the crap made it impossible for much of it not to sneak into my subconscious - there was too much to experience for my brain to sort and process all of it while trying to keep from screaming.

I do not look forward to my dreams tonight, frankly, and admit that my impression of this place is fatally skewed because of my childhood trauma. But, as I moved with Dad toward the van so we could go fetch the rest of our group, I told him I did not like this place. And I did not want to come back.

"You said that before," he remembered, squeezing my hand when I reached for his. "You're braver than you think," he decided. "But you still don't ever have to come back." And with that promise, we drove back toward the awful place to fetch Mom, Aunt and Uncle. With one last shudder, I resolved to return to my life with greater tolerance having been utterly distracted for a day.

(If, for some reason, you'd like to go see this stuff and don't know the place of which I speak, send me an email. I'm afraid I'll need a solemn vow that you will not bring children with you to this place, but - once satisfied - I can tell you where it is and how to get there.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Call for Recipes

I think I fell asleep for a moment or two while I was washing my hair. I've been taking conference calls starting at 6AM, putting in a full day of work on a special project then joining visitors for dinner and drinks. I am extremely tired.

I realized, after I blinked the water out of my eyes and finished rinsing my hair, that I had invited several people to my house on Thursday evening. I sleepily wondered what I'd cook for dinner and realized I have absolutely no idea. Mom made a very decent lasagna when she was here - I could recreate that. I haven't made cheesy potatoes in a long time. So there are contingency plans.

But - given cool weather and approximately 8 guests for a casual dinner - any suggestions for what to cook?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


After perching sunglasses over my be-contacted eyes and clipping a leash to Chienne's be-collared neck, we set off in the sunshine to do some thinking and sniffing, respectively.

My canine found interesting items to smell, keeping her nose near the ground as she trotted along. I followed, relaxing into a rhythm and letting the worry flow gently rather than swirl wildly.

Items of Worry
  • My fibroid is no longer asymptomatic. Further information is rather icky and "feminine" so I'll spare you.
  • I'm playing a part of putting people out of work. And the guilt is extreme.
  • I miss the girls and don't know when I'll get home to see them.
I returned home and called my parents, speaking briefly with each of my nieces and feeling even more urgency to get home to see them. They're wonderful and I like being around them.

I took a shower and then a nap. I worked on some easy items that I wanted to do. I ordered pizza and nibbled on a couple of slices while sharing with Chienne. I signed on to chat very briefly to ping Friend and she decided to call to catch me up on the super-dramatic soap opera that is her new lab. (It is such a good story that is so very well told, but our blog world seems to have lost Favorite Friend to her new lab. The lovely part is that she sounds so happy. She's found a spot where she's appreciated for being brilliant and funny and clever. I still miss the blog posts, but adore hearing Friend sound so good.)

The other thing that pleases me immeasurably is that there are a few people that I see on SiteMeter who are spending time with my archives. I love seeing people read for hours - I've done that with various blogs and never fail to become giddy and flattered when people return over days and spend actual time reading what I've written. So thank you, unknown visitors (and people in the past who have done the same and written me email). I have huge amounts of affection for all of you. And you, with Friend (who I also met via my blog), made what would have been a gloomy evening rather pleasant.

Project Nightmare

“You gave a seminar,” he said and I blinked at him. I’ve spoken in front of large groups of people many times since joining Industry and present to smaller groups at least daily. So while I wasn’t completely unsurprised to not remember this individual, I still squinted and tried to place him.

“You went to GradSchool, right? Gave a seminar on ThesisTopic?”

“Oh,” I breathed, finally remembering. “Yes. While I was trying to get this job, actually.” I briefly wondered if I could find the blog post (I can) and grinned at him. “It feels like such a long time ago,” I confided to our visitor as we walked to the lab.

“Are you happy? At IndustryGiant?” he asked curiously and I nodded immediately.

“I really am,” I told him. And that’s true. I’ve found my footing, established a reputation and continue to struggle toward a life where I don’t work constantly. Where I can flip a switch and at least dim the mental energy devoted to professional activities.

I know this has not happened, mostly because of the nightmares.

On Friday night, after finishing up the week with a disappointing though expected meeting, I returned home for another makeup experiment with Mary Kay and TinyFriend. We giggled over dramatic eye colors and nodded in approval over the lip liners. I went to sleep after meeting up with a few other friends for dinner, returning home full of mushroom ravioli and drifting into a deep sleep.

As morning approached, I drifted toward consciousness and had vivid dreams. I was at an art fair – the blown glass and paintings wonderfully colorful in their bright white tents – with a man. As we walked, he reached for my hand. It wasn’t an entirely unwelcome gesture, but I neither initiated nor encouraged it. And while I didn’t really mind being linked with him, it wasn’t something that made me flutter with happiness.

He was around. Not objectionable. So I settled and let him believe I returned his affection while I was actually mostly unmoved. We moved along, looking at art and smiling at people, and eventually found a quiet corner where he pulled me closer. I wrinkled my nose when he closed his eyes to kiss me, thinking I didn’t really want his tongue in my mouth. While I tried to quickly consider my options, he pressed his lips to my cheek, then my throat and paused and looked at me before moving to my mouth.

I winced as he waited for my response, feeling terrible that we’d reached this point and desperately unsure of how to be kind and fair to him without allowing him further into a situation I didn’t think I wanted. As we stood there, he looked increasingly confused and hurt and another man approached and said my name.

I turned to look at him, my companion mirroring my action as his hands remained on my hips. The newcomer reached out his hand, indicating I belonged with him and confidently waited for me to remove my hand from one man's shoulders to place it in his outstretched palm. My stomach cramped and mind raced.

I whispered an apology to the first man, swallowing against nausea when he looked shocked and hurt, apologizing again and again even as I reached for the new man. The flutter of sexiness he otherwise would have caused was lost in my horror that I’d hurt someone, more by carelessness than by design, and was unable to find a way to fix it.

I pulled myself from the dream on a shuddering sigh, going through it again so I wouldn’t forget the details. I turned to my side, curling into mounds of pillows, and whimpered softly.

“Katie,” one of my colleagues said on my right, having worked with me on this proposal supporting a project from a much smaller company. “This will put them out of business.”

I nodded miserably, nearing the end of that Friday meeting that caused my bad dreams. “And I hate that,” I finally said sadly. “But we considered it, understood it, but it doesn’t change our business priorities. We just can’t do it until 2011 and maybe not then.”

“But,” my right colleague said – a man who is below me on the organizational chart, though not a direct report – “they worked on this with us. They need this to survive.”

“Katie,” another voice demanded attention from my left – this one from my level in the organization – and I looked at him sadly. “I can talk to them with you. Play the heavy.”

“I’ll let you,” I said sadly. “I understand – this was the expected outcome here and I tried to warn the company after our initial meeting. But I’ve never made this sort of catastrophic decision for a group of people before. And it is a good project.”

He nodded, regarding my sympathetically. I turned to my right and winced at his expression of defeated misery. “I’m sorry,” I told him. “We tried. I…” When he refused to look at me, I swiveled my chair and swung my gaze left.

“I’m sorry, too,” the man offered. “We make these kinds of decisions. And it sucks. You did your jobs to explore it and you presented it. And it doesn’t make sense for us right now. Our first priority is us, yes?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’ll set up a call for you to help me tell them, OK?” Left nodded, pausing to rub my shoulder briskly, his affection clear but decision unchanged.

I waited while Right rose and exited the room without a word or gesture. I sighed, picking up my notebook and pen and moving sadly to my office to begin the next call.

I went to get tea, deciding on an orange ginger packet, to soothe my upset tummy as I muted my line on the conference call. I watched the bag as I dunked and swirled it in the hot water, wishing I had a Care Bear. Definitely not a motherfucking tea party, I decided, punching the mute button to let them hear me and offering thoughts on a different project.

Finishing that call and motioning someone through my open door, I reached for my mug and took a humid, orangey breath. I shook my head when she looked concerned, probably noting my guilty and sad expression.

“I’m fine,” I stated, anticipating her question. “What’s up?” As I added more items to my list and offered insight into next steps for another initiative, I decided I do like my job. There’s very little time to dwell on failures before any number of other issues demand time and attention.

And since ‘the failures haunt my dreams’ sounds overly melodramatic, even for me, we’ll pretend I didn’t sleep with Tenderheart tucked comfortingly under my chin last night.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Let’s say I’m afraid of goldfish. I actually like goldfish, but for the sake of this post, we’ll assume I have a not-entirely-rational aversion to the creatures. The additional assumption is that my job requires me to deal with a goldfish. It’s pretty infrequent and I knew about the potential before I even applied to Industry.

I heard it was time to face the goldfish and agreeably began to make arrangements to do so. I happened, at some point, to admit I was tense around aquariums in general but goldfish made me particularly nervous.

“We’re friends here,” Adam said one day. “Tell me what bothers you about it.” When I looked at him skeptically, he leaned forward in his chair. “Seriously,” he insisted. “Is it the tail? The fins? If you tell me, I’ll try to help you with it.”

“I’ll be fine,” I finally replied. “It’s not a big deal.”

“I can tell that it is though,” he argued. “You visibly tense each time it’s mentioned. You’ve asked me twenty times if it’s really necessary. So what about it is freaking you out?”

“It’s the whole fish,” I confessed, blushing and feeling completely idiotic. “It doesn’t make sense, but I have nightmares that I’ll get tangled in the fins. Or have to touch the scales. Or look in the bulging eyes.”

“OK,” he nodded and considered me for a second.

“I don’t even like the gills,” I continued, fixating on the fear. “I mean, I don’t get it! I have no experience with breathing underwater and it scares me somehow!”

“So what would make it better?”

“I’ll be fine,” I answered. “Scared, but I’ll work through it.”

“Katie,” he said and waited until I looked up from studying my shoes before asking again how he could help.

“You could stay with me,” I said. “Stand between me and the goldfish. Remind me that the goldfish is actually a neat creature and rather harmless at that. I think I just need positive goldfish experiences and then I can relax.”

“I can do that,” he said. “I don’t pretend to understand completely, but if it helps to have someone with you, we’ll go see the goldfish together.”

“Thank you,” I said sincerely. “I know it’s silly, but this is really sweet of you.”

He waved off my gratitude and, the very next day, crushed my sense of well-being by saying plans had changed. I would have to face the goldfish alone since the rest of the team planned to visit it the day before I was able.

“OK,” I replied when he told me, for that’s what I say when I’m processing upsetting information. I said it again when he said there was no way around it.

But after losing sleep over goldfish worries and fretting over fins and gills, swishy tails and bulging eyes, I found myself irritated over something else today and began to scold him about the goldfish fiasco.

“You made me admit being afraid!” I said, eyes narrowed in angry accusation. “I was embarrassed, but I went through why I was afraid and what would help. Then you said, ‘screw you, I’m doing something else!’”

“I did not,” he said evenly, blinking at me in surprise.

“Close enough,” I sneered. “If you didn’t care how I felt – if I was going to have to handle it on my own anway – why go through the exercise of examining the feelings and reminding myself how much I dislike this? It’s just cruel!”

He defended himself and, having spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about it, I shot down every single statement he made before turning on my heel and returning to my office. He followed me, lingering in the doorway while I ignored him.

“What do you want me to do?” he finally asked.

“Nothing,” I replied, staring at my screen.

“Come with us a day earlier,” he offered.

“I can’t,” I stated flatly, raising my eyes to look at him and feeling a twinge of guilt when he appeared worried.

“And I can’t go a day later,” he explained.

“I know. But I still feel scared and betrayed. Neither makes sense. I’ll get over it.” And I sighed when he left me alone, pressing a hand to my stomach to try to ease the cramp there.

“You don’t have to see the goldfish,” he offered 20 minutes later. I blinked at my phone and didn’t respond, powerfully confused at his shift in opinion. “I don’t understand why you’re afraid,” he continued, “but I’ve been thinking about it and I know you’re sincerely terrified. And I did handle this badly.

“So I’ve been thinking about you and your value to the team compared to this particular goldfish and its importance. You win hands down. You will have to face the goldfish eventually,” he warned, “but I can give you more time to prepare. Set up a situation where you feel safe and organized and settled because I know you do better that way.”

“Oh,” I said, for that’s what I say when I’m processing lovely information.

“So,” he said when I didn’t speak again. “Think about it and let me know.”

“I can do it,” I said.

“I know you can,” he replied quickly. “I’m saying that – for this time – you don’t have to.”

“Adam?” I said before he hung up. “Thank you. I shouldn’t have said anything about this – I should have just seen the goldfish and moved on. But I’m grateful that my feelings are important to you. Really.”

Feeling much better overall, I carefully considered my irrational fear and the potential benefit. And then, feeling no small amount of guilt, I decided to avoid the goldfish for just a little longer. What good is throwing a tantrum and getting my way if I'm not actually going to take advantage?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Barely Sunrise

One of the most deliciously luxurious habits I have is waking before dawn and curling up to think. I take comfort in the onset of sunshine, thoughts more reasonable and calm than they are earlier in the night, and consider some difficult concepts without the sense of frantic worry that often accompanies such ventures.

Since it's often unwise to speak openly about work, let's say I'm actually capable of having a relationship and pretend I'm talking about that.

In a former relationship - let's say 4 years ago during the time I happened to be doing my post-doc - I was a certain way. I threw myself into love because I believed in it completely. I'd waited and researched and carefully selected just the right man. Speaking words I could have scripted for him, handling neurotic shifts of mood with grace and humor, he actually seemed to believe I was attractive and somehow sexy.

I, in turn, was utterly besotted, seeing only what I wanted to see and willing to do anything to encourage his happiness. Try as I might, I remained painfully needy though, making 3 calls to his every one. I'd send emails and postcards and gifts because the very thought of him changing his mind - deciding as so many others had that I wasn't attractive or sexy or worthwhile after all - was terrifying.

Yet it happened, each of us growing more miserable and equally certain that whatever might have existed was gone. Making plans to stop, I abandoned each of them for far too long. He finished it, forcing me to release the grip I retained on the desperate hope that I wouldn't be alone forever. I decided there were at least some lessons learned.

When I met another man, I therefore behaved as differently as I possibly could. Rather than losing myself in immediate bliss, I was openly distrustful, testing him at every opportunity and never failing to express my derision and disappointment when he failed. Impressed despite myself when he was more amused than insulted, I decided that perhaps we were different enough to at least be friends.

And therein was the major difference - I no longer expect to find great love. I understand that there are some women who naturally pair with men - who, even though they may lose sometimes, will drift into new partnerships. Then there are those of us who seem to have our magnets flipped around - instead of the normal attractive force that should be exerted, we carry with us a repellent sense. So regardless of how lovely and funny, smart and charming we may be, eventually it seems that men tire of fighting the laws of physics.

Not all men, I told myself. I will not be needy. In fact, I will speak only when spoken to. There are no expectations - no issues if I don't get attention or affection. I'll simply be happy with what is - laugh at jokes I think are funny, spend time in discussions I find interesting. And, surprisingly enough, it worked for a long time. I didn't feel repellent and while I wasn't any less alone in a real sense, I certainly felt less lonely.

And when it started to crumble, I didn't try to save it, determined to finish this as differently as I handled the first. Instead of clinging, I released all ties, acknowledging I expected it to happen the whole time. There still remains a surprising sense of loss - of realizing I have a story he'd have enjoyed or missing that he validated some of my feelings they way few others can.

It was different, I told myself. And good while it lasted. But it's all reduced to a wrinkled-nose memory now so I don't see how it matters. I no longer exist in someone else's world.

Curled under my covers, staring at the fan swirling from the ceiling, I sighed and snuggled closer to my piles of pillows. Closing my eyes against the light coming through the sheer drapes on my sliding doors, I drifted off to sleep with the firm goal of not ignoring work again today. For though men go away as if I never existed at all, work is solid. And I will not screw it up this time. Demoralized and disgusted as I am, tired of the arguments and battles and disrespectful disagreements, I must make this work.

And I wish I could tell you how and ask advice rather than hiding behind lame analogies. Perhaps password protecting is worth another look, much as I dislike the idea.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


“What’s this?” Adam asked, having muted his phone when I waved and walked in his office.

“A present,” I answered coyly before grinning and handing him the small box. He grinned and took it, opening the end to peek inside before withdrawing a booklet. He raised his eyebrows at me when seeing the name of the spa and I smiled.

“I was driving to work,” I explained, “and thought morale seemed rather low. We’re tired and stressed and just not doing well. So I was thinking about how I was going to demand you fix it and decided that wasn’t fair.”

“Of course not,” he interrupted and I sighed dramatically before he motioned that I should continue.

“I was thinking that sometimes it’s just hard – there’s too much work and too little time and people never seem to appreciate us as much as we deserve. I had just decided that I deserved a massage when I realized the whole team deserved massages. So I went to fetch gift certificates on my way in. You should all go relax. My treat.”

“Katie,” he said, shaking his head and looking down at the booklet of spa services again and pulling out the small certificate. I nodded happily and went to distribute the rest of my gift cards.

“It's such a surprise,” Best said before asking what they would do to him when he went. “I take off all my clothes?” he clarified and I nodded, telling him they’d let him shower afterward.

“It doesn’t say that in the book,” Adam noted, having joined our conversation. “How do you know they do that?” I rolled my eyes when Best went to get his book so they could frown over the massage descriptions.

“What’s the difference between a full bikini wax and a Brazilian?” he asked after we finished a conference call later in the day. I blushed before rolling my eyes.

“We’re not discussing it,” I told him. “You can Google it. From home!” I reminded him in case he turned to do it before I left his office.

“I’ve never had a massage!” TinyFriend enthused and Sibling was too busy to offer more than a distracted smile in my direction. But I felt remarkably good about myself. I’m lucky to work with an exceptional group of individuals and I enjoy spending time with them – even if it is often stressful and intense and argumentative. They challenge and support me. We go for meals and drinks and travel together.

And if a tiny part of it was a desperate attempt to buy affection so they’ll think I’m lovely and valuable, then nobody needs to know that but us.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Numbered List of Random Thoughts

  1. I was always confused by fact and opinion. It seemed to me that "My favorite color is blue," should be a fact while "Blue is the best color," was an opinion. But I vividly remember my 4th grade teacher telling me they were both opinions.
  2. I still believe I'm right.
  3. I am not offended when men curse in front of me.
  4. I am, however, charmed when they apologize for it.
  5. I'm having trouble with medication side effects. Complete loss of sexual interest (which is fine, I suppose) and much trouble sleeping (which is problematic).
  6. I can compose complete emails again though! And my inbox is once again under control.
  7. I hate it when people are redundant.
  8. When distracted, I find I'm distressingly redundant.
  9. I've always wanted to give our prizes on my blogiversary.
  10. Last night, when I couldn't sleep, I came up with two fabulous prize packages for my November 13 celebration. I'm very excited.
  11. One of the prizes contains a Care Bear!
  12. The other will be full of professionally revealing items.
  13. Having a colleague who is not contributing very much really brings down team morale.
  14. I therefore find I'm unmotivated lately.
  15. I am also angry that said colleague is impeding progress and getting away with it.
  16. There have been rumors that she's sleeping with her boss.
  17. I think those are despicable and refuse to discuss it.
  18. Yet I overheard reliable information in the rest room that indicates it may be true.
  19. This makes me sad and disappointed.
  20. Chienne is no longer taking her glaucoma pills, though she remains on the drops.
  21. She is So Much Happier. She sleeps less and plays more - is all bouncy and affectionate and cuddly.
  22. I therefore pick the risk of earlier blindness over miserably drugged.
  23. The Big Bang Theory is excellent TV.
  24. It makes me enjoy Monday evening.
  25. I also liked Royal Pains.
  26. Carrie recommended them both - she prescreens television shows and tells me which ones I will enjoy.
  27. The evening temperatures are perfect. I start out with the covers bunched in the middle of the bed and slowly pull them over my body as it gets cooler outside.
  28. I'm not sleeping well, but at least I'm not too hot while I lie awake.
  29. My neighbors have taken to playing badminton.
  30. I'm absolutely amazing at badminton.
  31. It was the only tournament I ever won in high school.
  32. I have decided I'm very afraid of balls - soccer, baseballs, kick balls, basketballs.
  33. Birdies that float gently through the air are just my speed.
  34. I'm very confident that I could crush the neighbor kid.
  35. When I was little, I loved the Grand Prize Game on the Bozo Show.
  36. I also liked Caspar the Friendly Ghost.
  37. And Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, but mostly for the village of those puppet creatures.
  38. I was in an airport and saw the puppet kingdom.
  39. I don't remember which airport...
  40. I might go to China this month!
  41. But I was supposed to go to Europe last week.
  42. Sometimes plans fall through.
  43. Even when expected, it's disppointing.
  44. I take Chienne for walks in the morning.
  45. Now when I get ready for work, she runs to the front door and whines.
  46. It's actually good motivation to go walk for 30 minutes or so.
  47. My neighbor has taken to honking at me when she sees us walking outside.
  48. It startles me.
  49. I don't like being startled and have taken to glaring at her in response.
  50. I should probably apologize.
  51. Mr. Sprout is bored.
  52. He bothers me at night - batting at my feet and cuddling incessantly.
  53. But he's a sweet cat.
  54. Sometimes I find him while sleeping and bat at his ears and cuddle incessantly.
  55. I feel it's only fair.
  56. But it's probably why he persists in waking me - it's how we show affection.
  57. I am sincerely befuddled as to the controversy over letting children watch the President's speech in schools.
  58. School is for learning - listening and discussing ideas even if you may not agree with them.
  59. Beyond that, how inflammatory could he possible become with this audience?
  60. I grew very concerned about what parents are teaching their children over this episode.
  61. Then I started wondering what made certain people popular when they're young.
  62. Appearance? Family? Wealth? Talent?
  63. I wasn't particularly popular.
  64. I suppose I'm still not - it takes a special kind of person to enjoy me.
  65. And most of them change their minds at some point.
  66. For those of you who've not experienced it, missing someone who neither likes nor misses you back is very sad.
  67. Fortunately, I've become used to it and recover increasingly quickly.
  68. The problem is that I really don't trust people anymore and have become increasingly introverted.
  69. That's OK though - I like to read.
  70. I finished four books in 2 days this weekend and enjoyed it very much.
  71. The days are getting shorter.
  72. While I welcome the cooler weather, I do miss waking up while it's light outside.
  73. After waking, I have a single cup of coffee (cream, no sugar) at home.
  74. Upon arriving at work, I begin to drink tea.
  75. My favorite is mint tea.
  76. It's always the first kind gone though - it must be a common favorite.
  77. I'm always tempted to horde a new box when it arrives by the water cooler/heater.
  78. I never have. Instead, I pick another kind - orange or black chai or rose-something.
  79. I do not like green tea. Will not drink it.
  80. If you pat Sprout, he will bite you.
  81. I just patted him.
  82. He bit me.
  83. I have found his laser pointer.
  84. He very much likes to play dot.
  85. My house is divided into relatively small rooms on the main floor - it's not a good dot-playing location.
  86. There is a tiny bag of catnip at the top of my stairs.
  87. I threw it up here so Sprout would leave us alone at night.
  88. It's utterly ineffective.
  89. Know what I miss most about Former Institution? Other than Friend, of course.
  90. The hand soap. It smelled like lilacs.
  91. I believe meetings should begin and end on time.
  92. I have therefore started walking out with a careless shrug at their scheduled meeting time, regardless of whether our business is completed or not.
  93. It's like honking at bad drivers - if I don't correct them, how will they learn?
  94. Two men (it's always men in my experience) can have lengthy email conversations about the idea of having a meeting.
  95. I waited for 6 emails (1. We should have a meeting. 2. Yes. 3. Good - I'm glad you agree. 4. No problem. 5. I could meet on Thursday. 6. Thursday might work.) before I was sighing so much that I thought I was going to pass out.
  96. So I set up the meeting.
  97. That either makes me delightfully efficient or means I act like an assistant rather than a valuable member of the team.
  98. It mostly means I get impatient with useless emails though.
  99. Coming up with 100 things is a much shorter process if I don't incorporate links.
  100. And I think this has been boring enough that I've coaxed myself into sleepiness. If you made it this far, good night and God bless.

Monday, September 07, 2009


“This is to certify that [Grandpa] did on this date at approximately 2100 Hours call his lawful wife (we hope it was his wife because he kept calling her “My Darling” and “My Dearest”) for the purpose of making his evening report.

“Sworn this 25th Day of November in Nineteen hundred Forty Sixth year of our Lord:”

I smiled as I read it, having opened the warped wooden box that contained it and smoothing the tear in the paper with my fingertips as I started from the beginning again. My parents translate “cleaning” to “bringing stuff to their eldest daughter’s house” but when the treasures are such as these, I can’t say I mind.

Resting my head on Mom’s shoulder as we stared at the aged and folded paper together, I murmured that he loved her very much and felt her nod. I closed my eyes against the pain that I won’t have that – there will be no grandchildren to find love notes or enduring items to pass along – but reopened them to forcibly focus on gratitude that ancestors had enjoyed such relationships.

“What else did I get?” I asked with a grin, pulling myself upright from where I’d curled against my mother and wiping the stray tear from the corner of my right eye. I reached for a cardboard box this time, also showing its age, and slowly wiggled off the cover. Inside it were three small Bibles – the ones that only contain the New Testament – Grandpa had collected. One was from his childhood – addressed to Billy – and the other two were given out during the war. When forced to face your mortality, I considered, religion must hold a particular appeal, but felt pleased that he had respected the fragile books. Kept them. I paused to admire the fishing pole Dad was showing me, kept in a long, sturdy box that protected the more delicate pieces within.

Returning to the Bibles, carefully taking each from their box, I was left with a small postcard resting in the bottom. I reached to pull it out slowly, staring at it with an odd certainty that I’d seen it before.

“You don’t have to keep that,” Mom said and I frowned at her, curling my fingers around the tiny piece of cardstock protectively.

“I want it,” I said defensively, pulling it closer to me as I bent over to look at the details.

I have an inordinate fondness for old hotels. Part of what pains me about having my European trip canceled was the loss of the opportunity to stay somewhere historic and lovely in London, outside Paris and around Munich. My favorite pieces of art are prints of vintage hotel posters. Large wooden frames protect the edges as the sit proudly on my living room wall. I’ve always wondered why I was so powerfully drawn to them. Why any trip to a large city finds me wandering toward the oldest lodging structures, poking through gift shops to find old drawings of the buildings.

The postcard unearthed under the Bibles was of a hotel. A rather plain rectangular structure, it sat on a corner of Main and Markham in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was, at the time, “Little Rock’s Newest Hotel” and boasted 300 rooms – each with bath and ‘Circulating Ice Water’ that I personally believe was meant to cool the building. As Dad frowned while deciding whether or not to agree with my belief, I leaned away from Mom as she stared down at the postcard.

“It’s mine,” I told her clearly. “Not Garbage.”

“I know,” she said, patting my arm and reaching for the paper I begrudgingly handed her. “It’s where they got married,” she said softly. “He was preparing to deploy so she went down and wore a white suit and married him. In this hotel.”

“Oh,” I breathed, leaning over to look more closely. Then I glanced over my shoulder at the framed picture that hangs on another wall. Not taken on their wedding day, but close. And now the postcard, carefully framed, hangs not so very far away from their portrait and the other vintage posters I collect.

“It’s not fair,” Dad pouted after he placed the framed treasure on the wall a day later. “There aren’t very many pictures of me anywhere around here.”

“There are so!” I argued. “Well,” I paused, looking around, “maybe not in here. But I have several in my office!”

“I can see one from here,” he teased. “I’m in that collage, but I’m itty bitty.”

“What?” I said, frowning at him when he mentioned this silly mess of photos I don’t even remember putting together and certainly haven’t displayed in the 10 years since they’ve been taken. I was distracted by Mom’s giggles as she went to look at it and quirked my eyebrow at her.

“There are,” she paused to laugh, “two pictures of ducks and two of the lake and one of your Dad and I taken way off in the distance.”

“We’re an eighth of an inch tall,” he said, losing his battle against a grin, “and the ducks are at least two inches. That makes me feel unimportant.”

I smiled back at him when I went over to look at it, Mom still lost in giggles by the counter.

“OK,” I said after I swallowed laughter. “First, you’re about the same size as the ducks.”

“But I’m much bigger in real life!” he interrupted. “When interpreted to scale, the ducks are mutated giants compared to me!”

“Second,” I continued, undaunted, “they’re ducklings. Still fuzzy. I like ducklings.”

“Better than she likes us,” he told Mom and she kissed him on the head while perching on the arm of his chair.

I paused, trying to capture the memory clearly as they sat together, looking happy and loving, full of laughter and life.

“I love you very much,” I assured them and rolled my eyes and replaced the collage when they continued to laugh at me. Glancing at the other side of the room, Little and Smallest One smiled sweetly from photos taken the week before. The framed images were carted up with the rest of the items from home.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Oh. Hey.

I tried to write something meaningful. When that failed, I tried to revise one of my old posts such that it would be suitable for publication. No go on that either.

I'm OK. More bored than depressed. Just pretty uninspired right now.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bad to Better

Not Good
"Katie," Sibling gasped when she rushed in the room. "I'm sorry! I saw him coming in and I was too far away and I didn't think it would help to yell 'don't go in there!' down the hall."

"It's fine," I said, still blushing as I adjusted my dress around hips and tugged at the hem. "It was probably time someone saw me mostly naked anyway." Then I shook my head and walked with any remaining dignity back to my office.

It was completely innocent. I had to remove my bra (in the name of science!) (seriously) and Sibling left the room before I tugged my dress up to slip the straps of my lingerie back up my arms. I was absently reading one of the signs on the wall and when another colleague walked in, I was standing in profile to the door, bra not yet covering me and dress hanging around my neck. Not classy. Pretty horrifying. And all before 9AM.

I decided to call it a day a couple hours later, returning home to spend the afternoon with my parents. We went for lunch, riding in the Awesome Van (which is honestly ridiculously large - have you ridden in a conversion van before? It's like a small apartment on wheels.) and decided to hunt for clearance patio furniture at several stores before stopping at Target to pick up a few essentials.

"It's a good thing I'm better," I said at one point. Dad had been reciting his standard list of complaints, asking why I'd stained the floor in front of my fireplace by putting a plant there. Or why my air conditioning was set at 65 degrees (it was not). Or why Chienne was licking her paw. Mom was disappointed that the Webkinz site was down and was teasing me about the old newspapers they'd unearthed. While in high school, I'd written a column. I'd post one to let you read it but I can't make it past the first two paragraphs of any of them without being compelled to put it down and blush at my youthful efforts.

"That was deep!" I defended myself as Mom giggled over my post about shoes. "It was a fabulous analogy about growing up and transitions!" I frowned when I realized I'd written posts about shoes on this blog and wondered if I'd feel abashed at my worldview at some point. (I'd check now but I'm a little afraid to look.)

"My grandma was proud of me," I said, pulling one sheet of newsprint toward me and tracing my fingertip over her name at the top of the page, missing her terribly as I gazed at the loopy script. She'd made marks by my name and I decided she must have left it out at the retirement community so her friends could read what I'd written.

"We were proud of you, too," Mom said and I nodded, resting my head on her shoulder and feeling glad they were here.

I continue to recover. No real sadness. A bit more engagement and thoughtfulness rather than the slow blankness that's existed lately.

I had curled in bed about an hour ago, nearly asleep before I remembered I hadn't taken my pills. When I might have blown it off a month ago, I dutifully came back downstairs and took 1.5 tablets. I'm continuing to learn how to manage this - figuring out what stressors to avoid (more to come on this) and how to cope when I feel myself slipping. But this episode appears to be drawing to a close.

So, again, I'm so very grateful for your kind and supportive comments and emails. It helped to feel noticed and valued when I was stuck questioning why people can't seem to care about me for very long. Truly - thank you.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


"I'll do it," I offered yesterday, speaking softly and smiling when four faces turned toward me in surprise. "I know how," I continued when they remained silent. "I even did a post-doc. I can write code and take data and analyze results."

"Of course," the project leader finally replied when his three scientists continued to look bewildered. "But we just needed you to approve the plan. Adam..." he trailed off, looking uncertain.

"Adam doesn't come to the labs," I assured him. Eager to escape my office - the ringing phone and continuously-arriving email - I wanted to remain in the working space of the building. After I literally shooed them away, they left me to work and I spent the next 10 hours carefully looking for bugs and writing down measurements and squinting at computer screens.

"No," I stated today in sharp contrast to my helpfulness of yesterday, though the speechless reactions of surprise were much the same from this group. "I don't think it's important," I explained, "and I'm not doing it." I looked around and frowned at the lack of reaction to my grand announcement. "No," I said again, just to be clear.

We did finally argue and I got to raise my voice a bit as I battled my way to victory. Pleased with myself, I returned to my desk and set to catching up from my absence last week and day in the labs yesterday. I excused myself from a meeting at 5:15, explaining that my parents were waiting at my house and that I wanted to see them.

After giving hugs and having dinner, we've scattered throughout the house for the evening. Dad's watching television in the living room while Mom plays on the computer in my office. I'm OK - certainly much better than last week, but I still feel flat a lot of the time, but with sharp bursts of moodiness. Each day gets easier though so it's getting to be time to thank you for bearing with me over the last few weeks. I am quite grateful.