Wednesday, December 28, 2011

John 3:16

For God so loved the world
He gave his one and only son
so that whoever believes in Him
shall not perish
but have eternal life.

I am not one for memorizing Bible verses. I've nothing against it and I tend to remember things easily so it's a bit of a mystery as to why I avoid it. Yet Mom likes Max Lucado and I wanted to leave the book for her when I returned home so I arranged myself on the couch yesterday and began to read his exploration of this verse.

I finished it last night and recalled why I'm fond of Lucado as well - he has an approachable style. A gentle invitation to read and learn and think that I find both informative and soothing somehow. And woven into the hopeful stories and holy lessons were questions about the reader's reaction - my reaction - to this life and what comes after.

I believe in God, though my belief sometimes lacks passion. It's comfortable and cozy and I've ignored it more often than not of late. His love is a given. His mercy and grace absently taken for granted.

When Chienne's nails clicked against the floor in the hallway, my mom called for me to help her. Already awake, I rose and followed her down the hall, opening the sliding doors to the backyard and waiting until she was ready to return to bed. Once there though, I was restless. Unhappy. Afraid not of what comes after death but what comes next in this life.

So I came to the living room and turned on the light by Dad's chair, deciding I'd fill my glass with water before I continued to read the 40 devotionals at the end of Lucado's book. I grabbed a Cutie from the crisper with my glass of filtered water and returned to snuggle into the recliner and finish turning the pages.

While the book is quite focused, the end is a series of snapshots of Jesus life and it seemed somehow Christmas-y to page through them without pause (though I realize that's not the point of a devotional). I'd already made it to Day 20 and decided to eat my citrus fruit before finishing the text.

"Seedless, sweet and easy to peel," I murmured as I removed the rind, recalling the commercial for the tiny treats. Then I wondered why that message resided in memory while tracing my orange-scented fingertips over the embossed title of my book.

Life is seeming long to me lately. Like everything loops in this awful, depressing cycle while we do little but act badly and get frustrated and do more harm than good. Much as I enjoy the seasons of the upper Midwest, their endless rotation has begun to bore me. As blessed as I am to have my job - and I do know that I am - it seems like I'm helping few and spending most of my time spinning my wheels, lacking energy to do much other than watch television or play mindless games when I return home. We age - children grow taller and increasingly skilled, dogs lose their sight or hearing or ability to walk comfortably, my knee crackles sometimes and I've mostly stopped noticing the gray in my hair.

I believe - for me - a shift of focus is necessary. If I ignore the persistent cycles in favor of that which holds meaning, life once again becomes productive. I'm once again powerful - at least in my own sphere of influence - and can feel I'm doing something. My faithful canine hopped out of bed and clicked down the hall once again in search of me while I was writing. And I moved from my chair to the couch so she could curl up behind my knees. And perhaps it's that easy - getting up, taking a couple of steps to find a different spot and think from here rather than there.

If I sit with God - just dwell in His presence - rather than filling my life with noise to drown Him out... If I pray more and fret less... If I hum hymns rather than mutter curses... If I cling to hope rather than languishing in despair...

If I memorize a Bible verse rather than an advertisement...

For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

It's small, but it's something. And it soothes me enough to want to sleep again.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Update

Dad, who looks not unlike Santa Claus, called to Smallest, mentioning he had placed his presents in his room. I believe this was meant to be one of those 'lead by example' moments.

Smallest, smearing pink polish on her tiny fingernails, glanced up and acknowledged his statement with what I thought was a rather regal nod.

He repeated it, stopping in front of her and blocking her light.

"Good for you," she said simply, looking up with eyebrows raised in challenge and tiny chapped lips curved into a smug smile. And her toys - the piles of boxes and stacks of bags - remained scattered about her feet.


"You can do that one," Little One directed when I emerged after the family had departed - partially in tears as someone had bossed the only boy who retaliated and all merry-hell broke loose until they put on coats and loaded cars. My eldest niece sobbed from her grandfather's arms - I'd hurt her tender feelings when I said she was being bossy. (But she was!) She'd eventually forgiven me (Mom interceded) and I was allowed to stick tiny gems on stickers.

So there I was - sleepily bedazzling a cupcake sticker - and I glanced up at her across the table, so much like me that my heart warms even as it worries. For all my good qualities - and there are some (really) - I'm bossy and dramatic and impatient and selfish and all those things that leave me wanting to warn Little One even as I cuddle her.

"Uh oh," I told her, my distraction causing a departure from our crafty plan. "I used the clear instead of the blue because I thought the clear were light blue." I let my fretful gaze meet her curious one and she shrugged and smiled, benevolent in her crafty leadership. "We can use the blue instead of clear on this cupcake," she decided.

So when she asked for ice cream - with both chocolate and strawberry syrup - I decided that I'd be a benevolent 'one tall enough to reach the freezer' and fetch it.

Chienne remained excited about opening gifts - she received a squeaky toy and some munchy sticks and tennis balls which she promptly shredded into tiny pieces that I'm still picking from my parents' carpet.

We've been mostly peaceful - apart from the coughing and blowing of noses and occasional squabbles. We played more games - electronic and board - had more food and learned how to use allowances on iTunes (after Little One's last spree cost her Aunt Katie upwards of $300).

And between the requests to fetch this or pick that up, there have been cuddles and kisses and snuggles on laps while reading books. Brother and I danced to Justin Bieber while his girls sang along - all the while helping Mom put together little keychains for a church banquet.

And I read 3:16, a gift from Aunt, that might finally be chipping away at the layer that seems to be keeping me from connecting with the world. Or so I pray.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

No Place Like...

"Merry Christmas," I greeted my former sister-in-law, a woman I've never particularly liked or respected. Still, my laissez-faire (which sounds fancier than 'I just don't care') attitude of late enables me to feel gently, if absently, affectionate toward most people.

"It's a beautiful house," I complemented her, for she's done a lovely job at putting together a home for her and the Ones. Recruiting her parents to do most of the work, she'd put in new floors - shining hardwoods - upon which the two kittens she'd acquired as Christmas gifts pranced about. She gave me a tour, pointing out the colors she'd selected for paint and making me smile at the severe organization of the clothes in closets. I remembered visiting Brother and blinking in surprise at the neat rows and straight seams as they contrasted sharply with our more haphazard 'hang it up and leave it alone' approach.

We scooped up the girls, my mother and I, and drove back to my parents' house, parking next to my Jeep that had arrived - Chienne and I in tow - yesterday mid-morning. I had a sandwich - ham and cheese on Butternut bread - while my faithful canine carefully moved about the house, orienting herself rather rapidly to this once-familiar structure. We've not been home since last Christmas, I think, preferring for the family to come to us (with our many bathrooms and comfortable beds and convenient location next to work and shopping and restaurants). But Chienne quickly made her way around the house and past the maze of toys on the patio into the fenced yard. I was both proud and impressed. For a moment at least. Then I settled back into my 'eh' sort of mood.

We went to church last night (eh) and came home early as Mom coughed and coughed. She settled herself with a breathing treatment while I cinnamon-sugared biscuit pieces for monkey bread. Then we went to bed early and - for the first time in my life - slept past dawn on Christmas Day.

I awakened after 7, petted Chienne and praised her for snuggling with me all night - she normally paces the house to track its occupants - and we padded down the hall just as the phone rang to summon us to gather the girls. Brother had arrived before we returned home and the girls began tearing paper from presents before we had breakfast in the oven and coffee from the pot.

We cooed over presents and promised to play later and tossed wrapping paper away from piles of boxes and toys. I loaded my new belongings into the Jeep to help clear a corner as sun streamed through the front window. Little One read me books (So Cool - I love kids who read) and, having left my iPad at home, I helped myself to her Judy B Jones collection and - once I adapted to the style - quite enjoyed 3 of them in short order. (Little One - age 7 - was quite impressed with my reading speed. I also beat her at Connect 4. I think this means that I - age 32 - am awesome.)

Smallest and I made crayons - looking at each other in disappointment when the melted pieces failed to dump into the waiting molds.

"I put it together wrong," I said apologetically. "And now it's locked so I have to wait for it to cool and unlock before I fix it."

"Why?" she asked, frowning at me darkly. The crayon maker is a bit slow for a 4 year old Smallest. So I tried to explain that the crayon melter needed to be a bit forward - it wasn't meeting the tilting device. And I told her I was sorry.

"It's this thing," she decided and I nodded in understanding.

"So we blame Crayola?" I asked, smiling at her and she nodded before we both stared at the ticking timer on the new toy. (We did finally make them and they were pretty cool. Just time-consuming.)

Smallest joined me for a nap with Chienne and then we played Old McDonald before helping Mom make corn pudding. Little One and I played a variant of dominos and she finally won at Connect 4 and we read another story together (I liked Inside Your Outside - it's a Dr. Seuss series, apparently).

We had dinner, watched television and played more games. It was pleasant. It is pleasant - even as poor Smallest is struggling with a fever (which explains why she's been so calm and sleepy today). But I keep recalling the comment as I waited for my massage at the spa.

"Your heart chakra is blocked," my therapist noted after I'd selected some cards and then a scent. "You're struggling to connect."

"True story," I said. But the massage, facial, manicure and haircut failed to cure me. As did Christmas. I feel like I'm in a bubble - not painful or bad. Just distant.

Still, from my distant state, I'm wishing you much merriness as you celebrate Christmas (or simply yearn for the end of the holiday season).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Speeches for Elevators

I have a variety of items displayed in my office. I'm a cluttered person by nature and enjoy looking up at a framed scribble by the Ones or a family photo or an amusing cartoon Friend sent me with her living will. (I do not display the latter. Just to be clear.) I have sketches and notes attached to metal with magnets. Printed cover sheets from published papers pinned on a board.

One of these papers is a printed slide - we rarely have paper copies of presentations but when revising the important messages, we each bring copies and scrawl notes in the margins for consistency across colleagues.

Sometimes the printer gets overwhelmed - all the pretty colors and large images confuse the poor thing - and I blinked with moderately hurt feelings when Adam laughed out loud at one of my pages.

"Your summary could use some work," he offered with a wink, handing me a paper neatly entitled Summary and containing the following message:

LPLLL PLPPP !P

LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

PPLPPLPLLLLL !!!!!


"Well," I decided, "at least it's emphatic. If you're going to go with a crappy message, you might as well be passionate about it."

But as I listened to yet another bad presentation for yet another hour, I sighed and thought that persuading people to do what you want shouldn't be as hard as people make it. And though it still shocks me, I'm in a position to judge people's work based on how much they want Industry money. And - not infrequently - I can't figure out what you're trying to sell me because your pitch is so awful.

If people would answer these questions for me, we'd be all set. Possibly with extra time for hugs and kisses!
  1. Why do I care? Seriously - what problem are you trying to solve?
  2. How is your solution different (and better) than others available?
  3. How confident are you in your value and differentiating characteristics?
Point 1
I'm sure you're very cool and smart. Awesome and brilliant. But this isn't like those homemade caramels near the cash register. (Though I do like those.) Tell me that I'm behind a competitor. That people are dying. That I can make lots and lots of money. Then - and this is important as well - connect what you're doing to that problem.

If you can't do this, you're wasting everyone's time. And I will spend the hour I've promised you wondering what color your mane would be if you were a unicorn. Because otherwise, I'll want to throw my shoe at you.

Point 2
I'm of the opinion that there are no original ideas. If I do have a problem, and if you can solve it, let's hear why you're the best solution. Why shouldn't we work devise our own solution for cheaper? I don't care about your publications yet - let's just pretend I'm buying a snowblower and we're putting your brand against everyone else. Give me the check boxes in those parallel columns. Are you faster? More accurate? More reproducible? More sophisticated?

How are you different? And why does that matter?

Point 3
So you can solve my problem. And do so better than others. Yay for you! Now - and only now - you can tell me about your awesome thing. I'll look at figures from your publications. We can chat about how Very Important People think yours is a game-changing idea. And I'll ooh and ahh and tell you you're pretty. And Brilliant. Incandescent with joy and brightness.

But if you're starting here - showing me publications from 1977 onward and describing how everyone else is Sick and Wrong in their approaches that have become common practice and how the rest of the funding agencies just don't get you? I'm back to pondering if your mane would be blue with green sparkles or purple with pink stripes and whether you'd trot or prance if you were a unicorn.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Lesson One

I used to play school in my parents' basement. I shuffle along the tiled floor in Mom's heels and write on my little chalkboard and grade papers I'd completed for all the students in my imaginary class. I would take attendance and record scores in my grade book.

I assisted with labs in undergrad as an overly permissive grader, wanting more to be liked by the silly freshmen than to have them learn much of anything. By that point - in my very early 20s - I'd realized I had no desire to teach. I wasn't all that crazy about people and it seemed much more efficient to think about topics on my own rather than to tell others what I'd already learned.

My graduate department didn't have TAs - we were all funded by our respective research groups - so I had neither the opportunity nor desire to lecture or grade or deal with plagiarism. Same goes for my post-doctoral research, leaving me to read blogs with an absent interest but no personal understanding of having stacks of grading or early classes or extraordinary students.

"So you want recommendations?" I asked several months ago when a friend of a colleague called. I replied when she asked about my background and was flattered when she said I'd be perfect. (I'm rarely perfect so when people are silly enough to believe I am, I tend to go with it pretty happily.)

Which lead to me saying hello to a group of people younger than me this morning as we prepared for my first of 4 lectures. And by 'prepared' I pretty much mean we stared at each other for a moment.

"So," I croaked, throat sore from a miserable cold I've picked up. "Hi." I shifted from foot to foot, decided I was incapable of standing in the front of a room for 2 hours and took a seat, demanding that we form a circle so we could chat.

I was positively exhausted after an hour.

"You're killing me here," I finally told them. "Listen, I don't do this. And I don't feel well. But ask some questions. Don't sit there with your eyes closed, though I do forgive yawns. Give me something to work with, folks."

I realized, near the end of my presentation, that there was a reason I felt like teachers often lectured directly to me. I have a habit of making eye contact and an inability to sleep sitting up. So - if my behavior today with the 2 semi-engaged individuals is any indication - that I may have been one of the few people who was 1) conscious and 2) not looking down at her desk. Because I just started talking to the people who looked at me.

Anyway, I did not enjoy it.

But at least I have no papers to grade.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Hmmm

"I'm sorry," I interrupted after taking a sip of the water that demanded my attention after I'd finished a sparkling little bellini. "Did you say you got laid? Because that would, I suppose, be a good experience with an airline."

"No," she replied, shaking her head for emphasis. "It's not that kind of story."

A chorus of disappointed sounds met her announcement and I innocently asked if she was sure it couldn't be made into that kind of story. Instead we heard about early boarding and free drinks and quick connections as I debated (and decided against) more sparkling wine.

In the midst of giggles and sips and snacks, there was a dark cloud hovering about one of our companions. I finally stood and slipped into another seat so that I was closer to her.

"So," I said with a gentle smile. "How're things?" And I listened while she talked about how good they were, how important she was, how much better it could be if people would simply listen to her.

I bit back advice - it's in my nature to boss people around - and cocked my head and asked about her ideas. And they're good ideas - not terribly original as all have been tried and failed, but they're reasonable and well-intentioned.

"I understand," I said. "They're good ideas - I've had some that are similar. And it's a frustrating problem." I paused, wondering what I wished someone would say to me as I struggled against the misery that sometimes becomes overwhelming. What might have made life better when it seemed so painful and difficult and unfair.

I wanted to tell her she was hurting her career. That getting hysterical in meetings was ill-advised. That one doesn't interrupt constantly and grow increasingly shrill when corrected by those higher in the food chain we call Industry. That criticizing one's peers in large meetings simply isn't done unless you want them to appear reasonable and sympathetic and you to appear picky and mean. "Take a breath," I wanted to say. "Think before you speak because you're self-destructing and doing so in a way that makes few people want to rescue you."

But looking into her sad eyes and the pinched way she was holding her mouth, seeing the anger and frustration and hopelessness, I said a quick prayer and wished we were close enough that I could have reached to hold her hand or offer a hug.

"I've been where you are," I told her softly. "If you want to talk or if I can offer suggestions or there's any way I can help, please let me know."

Upon her insistence that she was fine, I nodded and patted her shoulder before returning to my seat and my water to sip.

"She has mental issues," the woman beside me whispered, almost too softly to hear.

"So do I," I replied easily, smiling sadly and thinking of the large prescription bottle full of orange and gray capsules I faithfully swallow each night.

"Why so sad?" Sibling asked from my other side and I shook my head, saying it was a momentary lapse. Someone asked if I had a favorite airplane story and I wrinkled my nose thoughtfully before leaning forward to begin.

"On one flight, I saw a man I'd met before but didn't know well. I touched his arm and said hello and before I knew it, he'd arranged for his seatmate to trade me spots so we could sit together. We flirted through the flight - leaning into each other and when we landed, there was a hotel right in the airport..."

"Are you making this up?" PrettyHair asked suspiciously.

"Obviously," I replied, laughing when the waiter winked at me while refilling my water and wishing the girl at the end of the table had at least smiled.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

When Time (and a shoe) Gets Away

"I get very flustered when I'm finishing something but know someone is waiting for me. I can't focus on the first thing without worrying about the second thing. It takes my fondness for being prompt and turns it into a nightmare of being rude to all people - by being inattentive and late, respectively."

So - when I was finishing one meeting and late for another and my phone rang to alert me to a third that wanted to start ASAP but couldn't do so without me - I was walking backward while wrapping up with my first group with the phone to my ear so I could - in just a second! - assure my admin that I would be there in 15 minutes. Upon finishing my 'great to see you/thanks so much'-es, I pivoted on one foot with the intent of propelling myself into an extremely brisk walk.

Instead, my shoe - an adorable black flat - slipped off my pivoting foot as it left the ground, going behind me in a graceful arc while I stumbled forward like an inelegant elephant. After three running steps - wherein my hands almost touched the ground as the hem of my skirt likely exposed my bottom - I managed to find my balance and get upright.

In the middle of a long corridor.

Across campus.

Where no less than 10 strangers looked at me with expressions that varied between sympathy and amusement.

I nodded at them, smoothed my dress and tried to walk with meager dignity back to where my shoe remained - upside down - on the carpeted floor.

"You lost your shoe," one woman offered as I moved back toward the erstwhile footwear and I turned to look at her - cheeks still wearing the stain of embarrassment - and blinked in surprise that she'd say something so obvious.

"No kidding," I replied, voice edgy and sarcastic. "You know, I believe I noticed that."

A woman standing next to her choked on laughter and complimented my recovery. "I would have fallen down," she said and I smiled my thanks at the better comment.

Deciding not to speak the "I hope you did not see my underwear" comment on the tip of my tongue to the crowd of men in suits, I put on my shoe, took a deep breath and walked away.

I just hope it's not prologue for December - the month of achieving goals and finishing projects and - with some luck - staying upright.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks for your email...

Dear Serge,

I appreciate you taking time to read my blog - I tend to be flattered when people do. I'm glad you enjoy your job at Jooble. I enjoy the logo with the bunny on it!

I have a job and rather hope I'm not looking for another very soon, but I'm happy to link to your site in the event that my small (but beloved) group of readers is interested in a search engine specific to job postings.

I very much hope you continue to enjoy your role there and find yourself both productive and challenged.

Wishing you success and happiness,
Katie



Dear Sam,

I like t-shirts. The other day, I was helping arrange a shipment of stuff at work (long story - not very interesting) and I was shockingly casual as I packed boxes and lifted crates. I was then called into a meeting with the president of another company wearing a gray t-shirt that was far too big that said "Patience is a waste of time." It was rather embarrassing, actually, but I normally enjoy glancing down to see if I've spilled something on myself and seeing a funny statement.

Honestly, I'm more likely to pick one up at the airport - you know, one of those 2 for $25 ones emblazoned with the name of some random connecting airport than to design my own. Though I do appreciate your invitation to design with your company. I imagine you're very good at what you do.

If you'll permit me just one piece of advice though, when you invite a single woman in her 30s that is accelerating toward spinsterhood to design a shirt - with a "blog logo, a memorable quote, or a picture of a cat"? I giggled for a moment, picturing myself as the crazy cat lady, but then I remembered that I'm more of a dog person. So we're cool.

Still, much luck in your shirt-making adventures! If any of my tens of readers might be interested in making shirts, I hope they'd consider ooshirts. I'm sure they're oo-rific.

Katie

Dear, sweet Google,

I hear nothing but good things about your company and campus and employees. And I know you make good products. I've even stopped thinking your April Fools jokes are real!

I understand social media is a big deal. While I ignore my Facebook account and would rather be attacked by birds than deal with Twitter, I do keep up with LinkedIn. But I don't need more notifications about the vast array of services you offer. I'm very pleased for and proud of you, but I just don't feel the need to drive traffic to my blog and keep track of visitors to my blog or continued banners that my Firefox is old. Believe me, I know the last one. My poor PowerBook is also elderly but it's still functional if you just jiggle the power cord where I dented the corner. It even has an old OS and won't support the new Firefox.

And if I do need help or additional services, dudes, you're Google. I'd use your delightfully powerful search engine to find what I sought.

Love you googles,
Katie


Dear Goday,

I would sincerely love to send Bibles to Nigeria for your study as a pastor and for the elderly people who need giant print text in your congregation. I've not been to church lately, you see, so I could use a good deed to make me feel like I'm not such a terrible Christian.

I have been giving to charity lately too. I recently bought a goat and a share of a deep well. I do tithe (when I attend) (which isn't often lately) (So I guess that's a lie about tithing.) and I try to be patient and kind. I give adopted animals from WWF for Christmas gifts. I really try to be good.

But my pal Google tells me that there is a scam to send Bibles to Nigeria - I read there's a black market there. So now I'm sad - you're either trying to trick me to make money (and perhaps you very much need the money) or you sincerely need Bibles. I shall pray about it.

May God bless you and yours,
Katie

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sex w/ Strangers

It lasted no more than 5 seconds.

But let's start from the beginning.

When one is nearly 33 and without plans for the weekend and a little bored and lonely, bad ideas start to seem intriguing. So, finding myself alone on a Saturday evening and exchanging flirtatious bits of text with someone I've just met online, I frowned over the offer to meet up immediately for sex.

Said offers are not uncommon, frankly, and many of them come from married men eager to escape the sheer monotony of their existence with a strange piece of ass. Which, I suppose, is all fine and good, though it hardly gives me the warm-fuzzies about the institution of marriage and finding love in general.

Anyway, I have a rule about sex on the first date, let alone sex as the first date, as, I'm sure, do many of you. But upon viewing my current situation, I decided said rule may be counter-productive. Perhaps my plan of simply having sex a few times would loosen me up, enable me to relax into a relationship that would eventually send me seeking other companionship from the sheer monotony of it.

So we were chatting and he asked if I had a house and I said yes.

He asked when he should come over and I pursed my lips and put him off and he nudged again and I thought 'what the hell' and gave him my address.

Then I frantically threw away clutter and tossed dirty laundry downstairs and jogged up my steps to shower. I didn't think about it as I dealt with hair removal and scrubbing my skin smooth. I paused, naked, at the edge of my bed that rests on the floor before shrugging and tossing my blanket over the mounds of pillows on which I'd napped this afternoon. And I took a breath and dressed in a sheer camisole and silky pajama pants before adjusting my breasts into cups designed to lift and separate, sighing at the disparity between my hair pulled into a bun behind a face wearing glasses and the scraps of fabric I wore below my shoulders.

I waited, wanting to be swept away. Overwhelmed with passion. Drowning in desire.

I continued to wait, smoothing on lavender lotion. It's somewhat soothing and sits midway on my favorite scents list. So if something were to happen that ruined the fragrance for me, no huge loss. I trimmed one toenail and plucked a stray eyebrow hair. I finished one bottle of water and fetched another, wondering for a moment if I should switch to wine.

I began to practice deep breathing, growing rather frantic with worry, and running upstairs to dig the condoms out of my closet, frantically searching for an expiration date before tossing them in a drawer. On a whim, I put carpet cleaner next to them - you know that spray-foam kind? I decided that if things got out of hand and he was too insistent, I'd spritz him before scampering away. One assumes cleaning products sting at least a little.

There was more waiting and increasing levels of worry and no small amount of wondering why I do this when it's so miserably difficult.

Then Chienne's ears perked just before Sprout ran upstairs to hide, his nails catching on the carpet as he accelerated. I closed my eyes, wished I was someone else and went to answer the door.

"Hi," I said upon flipping the lock and opening the door. He stepped inside before I could invite him in and I set about introducing me to my dog as she jumped and whined eagerly, missing him as I explained she was blind.

"OK," he replied, moving toward me even as I stepped back and putting his hands low on my hips and reaching to kiss me.

There was a moment in college - upwards of 10 years ago - that a very cute boy at a rather interesting party unfastened his pants and let them fall. And while whoops went up from the crowd, some of us looked and others didn't.

I didn't.

There was no conscious choice to avert my eyes. I kind of wish I'd looked. I was rather envious of those who could whisper and giggle approvingly when he walked through the hallway. But in that split second of decision, I was instinctively shy.

And so, when he reached to kiss me in my foyer, I turned my head so he'd miss my mouth and nudged him backward with two taps of my palms on his shoulders.

"Relax for a minute," I requested when he inquired about what was wrong. "I'm just having a moment of..." I trailed off, wondering what the hell I was doing and how in the world to explain something I didn't understand.

"Then I'm going to go," he said and I nodded, reaching to help him with the door and locking it behind him with relief and regret.

And despite writing upwards of 800 of them as I sit here in a revealing camisole and no panties, I really am too asinine for words.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Canceling Plans

I sniffed experimentally at my mug of tea, blinking at the barely noticeable sensation of contacts in my eyes, and sighed as he continued to talk.

"Sometimes we'll be emailing back and forth and then she'll suddenly stop responding," he told me, seated across the booth on a sunny early-afternoon. "And I don't know what happened. Or we'll make plans and she'll never confirm."

"I think," I responded gently, wishing my tea lacked ginger - the spiciness was canceling the soothing effect of the mint, "that online dating can be difficult. So much is based on gut feeling and that's hard to explain to someone. Stopping without explanation often seems kinder than trying to explain something that's indistinct, even in your own mind."

I thought of one such phone call I received. John, of the flowers and easy attraction and good kisses, had called to explain why he didn't want to see me again.

I winced upon answering the phone months ago, thinking semi-bitterly that men should never say they're going to call when they'd rather not. "Thanks for the evening," works as a farewell statement. "I enjoyed meeting you," is a harmless overstatement that creates no expectations. And I'll admit that one date is usually sufficient to define the end of a dating experience - I've not gone two and out before.

"So I wanted to let you know," he offered haltingly, "that I do think we're over before we really began. And I don't know exactly why - you're smart and sexy and funny, but..."

I smiled, even though the comment did sting a bit, and spoke into his pause. "John. I appreciate you letting me know - that's gutsy and I do admire bravery. But it's fine - sometimes the chemistry is off or the timing is wrong and that's really OK."

"I hate to say that it's not you, it's me," he said and I could picture him wince at the statement, the dear, kind, liberal boy. "And I'm not saying that, but it's kind of true. I've been trying to figure it out - whether I have feelings for my ex or am just not ready to date. So maybe we could be friends?"

"You're digging yourself a hole there, pal," I said, laughing and thinking that these conversations were, in fact, rather trite. "Listen. You're a very sweet man and I enjoyed getting to know you, but I really do understand. It's not really you. Or me. It's just the 'us' that doesn't work. And there's really no reason for us to be friends. Find someone you want to date, sweetheart. And take care of yourself."

I paused after hanging up the phone, wondering if I was going to cry and feeling like I could but didn't have to. "That is unpleasant," I told Chienne. "I think I'm a fan of failing to reply in order to signal the end of the beginning."

I returned my attention to the man across from me last Saturday and took a moment to glare at my tea for not being alcohol. Wine can blur the edges of these initial encounters and make it seem more amusing than disheartening when you're profoundly incompatible.

He can't stand sitting still - I enjoy naps.
He values emotional stability - I giggled in response, for 'emotionally stable' isn't going on my list of traits.
He asked if I liked rock climbing. Ice skating. Bowling? - Not so much, no.
While - objectively - he was attractive, I was not attracted. - The feeling was mutual.
He seemed to express his disappointment with others - dates, colleagues, politics. - I tend to turn frustration inward - if dates are bad, I selected someone poorly. If I struggle with colleagues, I didn't communicate properly. I even find it challenging to get too upset with politicians as my personal level of involvement and knowledge is pretty limited.

So after a mere hour, there was shaking of hands and semi-sincere smiles before we parted ways.

"I don't know what we're meant to accomplish," a colleague said yesterday when we managed to connect via phone regarding an upcoming meeting that required me to traipse across the country. "It's always good to see you and we can certainly take time to talk, but there doesn't seem like much to discuss."

"I completely agree!" I replied. "And I wanted to have dinner and catch up in a more meaningful way the next time I came out."

So we decided to skip my 24 hour trip that allowed for 2 hours of in-person meetings and I gleefully canceled flights and slept in my own bed last night. Which means I awakened to make pumpkin spice coffee and adequate time to write a blog post.

Sometimes things turn out as they're meant to.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

LOL

"If you're not feeling well," I said with a glance at his ankle, "you really don't have to join us for dinner. I can handle the group."

"Katie," he replied with utter sincerity, "I have a 3 year old and a 3 month old and permission from my wife to go out tonight. If I end up in a wheelchair, I will be there for dinner."

***

"He looks like a vampire," a colleague said about a new hire as we were in neighboring bathroom stalls. "Dark hair, pale skin, very tall." I took a moment to feel grateful that I wasn't very tall - with my dark hair and pale skin, perhaps I would be a candidate for the undead as well.

"Oh!" I said, perking up. "And he studies blood flow!" Delighted with my joke, I giggled and paused when nobody joined me.

"Vampires like blood?" I explained, profoundly disappointed in my bathroom buddies. "Come on! That's funny!"

***

Beavis and Butthead is back on MTV. While modestly embarrassed about my joy in a returning high school pleasure, I did catch a re-run last night.

And laughed so hard it hurt. I could listen to their commentary on Jersey Shore for hours. Bless you, Mike Judge.

***

My parents help at Little and Smallest Ones' school (which I find terribly sweet) but Dad is not a fan of rained-out recess.

"I always get stuck with the bad class," he told me when we last spoke on the phone. "The girls are nice, but the boys just go wild. And I'm not allowed to yell at them so I just keep repeating that they should settle down."

"I'm sorry, Daddy," I said absently as I was driving home from work.

"Oh, it's fine," he replied. "I told the teacher they were mean to me." And he sounded so much like Smallest One as he laughed.

***

Have you seen the commercials for Milo's Kitchen? Where the woman is proud of her dog? (That's not the funny part - wait for it.) Chienne loves the chicken jerky. As soon as the bag crinkles as I open the seal in the pantry, she trots over, tail wagging and waits for our routine.

I ask if she likes chicken jerky and she barks.

I bark back.

We repeat that until she begins to howl and after I join in, I place the treat in her mouth and she trots away while I giggle.

***

I talk to myself - and/or my dog and cat - quite a bit. So on our walk the other day, I paused at a corner and said, "Go ahead, Mr. Truck."

I blushed when I realized his window was open despite the cold weather and he grinned at me before saying, "Thanks, Miss Pedestrian."

"You're welcome," I murmured as he waved and pulled away. "But it's Dr. Pedestrian."

***

Oh! For the lovely ladies who offered to befriend me on my post recently, I love you times infinity! I would so install you in my guest room and come find you when I thought of something funny to share and then be profoundly disappointed if you didn't laugh.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Speaking with Strangers

When I am sad, all is directed downward.

Shoulders, eyes, corners of lips.

I rarely speak as the air about me discourages converation - it feels safer, if painfully lonely, inside my head.

Said depression seems to have lifted as my recent trip west was littered with interactions - short, friendly exchanges likely inspired by curious eye contact and automatic smiles.

"Is this A4?" the man asked, eyes bright but gait unsteady as he shouldered his way through the crowd toward the pole that was charging my laptop.

"It is," I replied, lips curving in welcome but sympathetic expression emerging as he mentioned his hip was hurting from his previous flight. I glanced at his ticket and touched his arm briefly to command his attention. "You're going to Boise?" I confirmed and when he nodded, mentioning it was home, I winced and said that US Airways was miserable about changing gates. "You're going from somewhere else - A29, I think - but you should look at the monitors to check." So hand on his arm, I pointed at the nearby cluster of screens and frowned as I watched him hobble toward the proper departure point.

I answered questions for two more people, wondering if I looked knowledgeable or simply approachable standing there in my gauzy skirt and turquoise sweater.

I arranged the former around my legs after standing at spot 5 to wait for my taxi outside LAS and crossed my legs toward the duffel and laptop bag on the seat beside me. "Summerlin," I directed my driver, looking up the hotel name on my Blackberry as we sped away from the airport and past the strip.

"Are you married?" my driver asked after we'd covered travel and weather and economic topics.

"No," I replied with a shake my ponytailed head. "I have a dog and cat," I offered, "but no husband or children."

I winced in sympathy when she said she lost her husband 8 years ago and her children were now grown. "I like being on my own though," she said. "I date now and then and enjoy men's company but never seem to want to sign up to take care of someone again."

"I think I like the idea of being with someone more than the reality of it," I confessed. "I love the infatuation part - the blushes and nerves and excitement of first dates and first kisses. But then it becomes routine or someone opts out and feelings are hurt and it's just a lot of work."

She agreed and we discussed male quirks until arriving at my lodging for the overnight trip. I thanked her and grossly overtipped and waved as the doors slid open to welcome me to the hotel.

I quickly made friends with the man at reception, then made the acquaintance of the waitress at the restaurant in walking distance.

I chatted with both colleagues and collaborators, enjoying the small talk of (very) conservative politics and demurely declining to share my views. I did take notes, gaining professional insights and asking questions between sips of wine in the evening or gulps of coffee in the morning or bottles of water throughout the day.

"My flight was delayed 3 hours," he said and I glanced up from my laptop to politely cock my head at him.

"I'm sorry," I offered with a gentle smile, watching as he lowered himself to the ground opposite to where I was sitting, again to charge my laptop.

"It's fine," he replied easily, arranging the hat that rested rather jauntily on his head. "I had a great vacation and got cash to have some lunch and I'm not going to get upset about it. Life is good."

"Good for you," I praised. "It's easy to get upset about travel problems but your attitude seems much healthier."

He grinned at me before readjusting his hat to take a short nap on the semi-dirty floor on which we rested, waking to tell me more about his weekend and asking after the work that had me so focused.

"So how are you?" the cute boy next to me asked, turning off his phone on which he'd had a friendly conversation moments before as he settled into the middle seat.

I turned my attention from the window toward him, admiring both glasses and closely-cropped beard before answering that I was fine - thank you - and how was he? So he told me about his friend and his problem and we talked about Vegas and our differing purposes of business and pleasure.

Then we, as he put it, geeked out by discussing medical topics. Healthcare trends and treatment strategies and political influence and global approaches. It was fun - like a really good blind date - to find someone knowledgeable in the field I call my professional home. And we exchanged insights and asked questions and made eye contact and smiled and touched hands and arms as the discussion grew more animated.

I glanced at the card he gave me before we deplaned and returned one of my own. "I enjoyed meeting you, Katie," he said, smiling and nudging me with his elbow as we waited our turn for people to deplane.

"Likewise," I replied. And I enjoyed being met.

Friday, October 14, 2011

One of Those

You know when you're standing up after using the bathroom and realize the back hem of your skirt was in the toilet?

Or when, after deciding that you'd simply rinse it in the sink, catch sight of the fact that you're wearing those crotchless tights you made after you dated that guy who requested but never actually saw them?

And when weighing the completely disgusting thought of having urine on your clothing against being seen in a public restroom without underpants, someone walks in and begins talking to herself - in a loud, frantic way - about how her mama didn't raise her to be late?

And you wonder whether she was late for an appointment in this giant building that was hosting your visit or if she was late in the way women say when they believe they are pregnant?

Then worry over whether she'll have the baby in the restroom while you and your dirty skirt huddle in one of three stalls?

Quickly decide you've been watching too much Law & Order and Snapped on television?

And remind yourself that while you know CPR, you are not at all trained to deliver a baby - even in the best of circumstances? And CPR isn't - to your knowledge - overly helpful during labor?

Recall that you're not the best in emergencies - like that time when the pipe burst while you were doing that experiment for the first time in 12 months and you just stared at it for a moment - watching the liquid pour from the wall and splatter on the floor as a puddle grew alarmingly quickly?

And when you realized you should call for help, you frantically stated, 'Water! Water everywhere!' rather than offering a location or your name?

Or how if you won $1,000,000 and could do anything, your main response is 'I think I'd enjoy a series of naps? After I shower and throw away these clothes?'

When asked questions you can't answer or assigned projects you can't complete or suffering through miserable cramps or debilitating depression or a general crisis of professional confidence, you just stand there in the bathroom, carefully arranged against the corner of the sink, trying to rinse the grossness out of the hem of your skirt?

If so, me, too. Want to be friends?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Time, wrinkled

In the rare instances where my televisions go quiet, I hear the ticking of clocks.

In those moments, I turn my attention to them. The stately silver one that rests on my mantle. The sleek piece - a bit oblong - that came from Stockholm. The silly one that topples over when improperly placed on its stand. They, along with others placed on walls or perched on tables, tick along.

Until they don't anymore. I stared at one as its batteries died, its rhythm slowing from that of its friends. Eventually the second hand would no longer turn, hovering at the stylized 6 and twitching hopefully until gravity defeated the will of time.

Then it stopped.

"What do you want for your future?" has been a popular question of late. I've marinated in this deep unhappiness long enough that it's penetrated my skin, permeating conversations, lingering in meetings. I try to muffle it in conversations with family and friends, but hear the residual worry and sigh momentarily over my failure.

"How," the craniosacral therapist I no longer see asked, "can you fulfill your purpose if you're not aligned with your body? It's like you're slowly killing yourself."

"I do not want to grow old," I replied before frowning and realizing that was rather morbid. "I fear age and incompetence much, much more than I fear death." So perhaps if I coat my heart in cream cheese and surround myself with dough, I will go quietly.

I grimaced at a cricket when taking out the garbage. He waved his legs in the air, resting on his back and unable to right himself. It seemed best - humane - to kill the wayward creature, but I have not a strong stomach and shied away from hearing the crunch of his skeleton beneath my shoe.

Instead, I dropped the garbage bag - a heavy bag of black plastic filled with items rendered useless - atop him and glanced down after lifting it up. It had somehow flipped him over rather than ceasing his existence and I smiled for a moment as he hopped away. Then Chienne stumbled into a rock and I sighed, momentarily happiness crushed under constant degeneration.

I read somewhere that September is tough - the shifting patterns on sunshine befuddling the brain and making it sad. But this feels chronic. Perhaps a seasonal dip superimposed on a general slide downward.

I recall Smallest One's dismay when she stepped in a puddle on her last visit. Her giggling exploration pausing when she stared down at the muddy glop that enveloped her pretty shoe before she cried out, the wail echoing off the nearby houses and absorbed by the trees of the forest.

We scooped her out, soothed and patted and carried, muddy sneaker thudding against the pajamas we'd worn for our morning walk.

"It's fine, love," I told her, pressing a kiss to the fine strands of hair that insist on escaping her ponytail. "We'll wash your shoe and dry your foot and you'll be all better." And she snuffled away the last of her tears and rested her head on my shoulder until we reached the safety of home.

"I'm not well," I say often. Migraines, back spasms, bouts of anxiety that render me non-functional. And when people offer - sincerely - to help, I can't seem to let them remove my shoe and clean it off. Dry my foot and cuddle me until I'm all better.

I sat on the floor of a doctor's office - for puppies, not people - and held my Chienne while they pulled fluid from the lumps on her neck and belly. "I'd like them to be lipomas," I requested politely, resting my check on her back, reaching to adjust the glasses I'd knocked askew.

"They are," he quickly confirmed, showing my the slides.

"Yay," I offered and kissed her head.

"Of course, she could get more or they could get bigger," he arranged his hands in a shape approximating a listeria-infected cantelope. "We'll remove them before that," he assured me when I made a face at him.

"Falling apart, pretty girl," I noted. But we share take-out and naps and some days that I should spend at work but instead huddle here, alternately angry and anxious and profoundly afraid.

"What's the plan?" I asked myself as I changed the batteries in the clock so the seconds could tick by once again. So I'll go to church - I've not been in months. And we'll see how it goes from there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dilatation Discomfort

"You're not going to touch my eye, are you?" I clarified, obediently placing my chin on the metal bar and resting my forehead in the proper spot. Finding her 'I'll tell you in a minute' comment to be wildly unacceptable, I frowned and decided how to protest.

"No blinking for 2 seconds," the doctor warned and while I was deciding how to politely decline that she touch my eyeball with the probe thingie, she did one eye. Then the other. Then sat back and confirmed that she had touched my eye. "Those drops work wonders," she declared proudly and I blinked rapidly and glanced at the tissue in my hand.

"My dog has glaucoma," I told her, having almost checked yes on the form where it asked if anyone in my family had eye diseases. I decided in time that Chienne and I have no genetic link and my paperwork need not reflect canine issues. "The drops she gets are yellow like this too," I displayed the crumpled Kleenex, stained yellow from the numbing drops I'd dabbed away.

I consented to having my eyes dilated, though I've not done that for years. My pupils are pretty large so other doctors have used advanced technology or made due with a darkened room.

"That's unpleasant," I told the doctor when my eyes burned as the drops soaked in. But I obediently left the room to pick out my frames and watched the assistant struggle with the insurance billing. I tucked my sample contacts in my pocket, having firmly refused the Toric lenses.

"I know I have astigmatism," I told her. "But I hated those lenses with a fiery passion. I could feel the edges of them. Constantly aware they were sitting on my eyes. I won't use them again." She attempted to argue but I insisted that my eyes were either too small or oddly shaped because they were miserable to wear.

When 20 minutes had passed, she peered into my eyes with bright lights, murmuring when I said it was hurting. It felt like the light was searing my brain, neurons wincing from the white rays.

"You're fine," she assured me, referring to my eye health, as I blinked at her with watery eyes and squinted against a headache.

"I'm sure I'll be fine," I told her, waving off the offer of paper sunglasses that would fit over my old frames. "I don't live far from here." But I took the plastic covered object, rolling my dilated eyes at the thought that I'd need them for my short trip home.

But once outside, I staggered back from the brightness of light, eyes chemically prevented from protecting themselves from the onslaught of bright sunshine. I lowered my eyelids, reaching blindly to find the precious paper sunglasses and fumbling to get them over my eyes. I nearly crashed my car when they slipped, body reacting to the miserable pain by closing my eyes before I recalled that driving required vision to avoid running into other cars and curbs.

Having arrived safely home, I kept my eyes squinted and found that even the computer screen was too bright to tolerate. As I settled in for a nice nap, relishing the relief of having my eyes closed, I realized it's much how I feel lately.

Abnormally, irrationally, vulnerable to emotional stimuli. I want to cry at criticism. Grow overly angry during arguments. Feel everything is unfair and overly difficult and absolutely exhausting.

"You just don't seem happy anymore," a colleague said, frowning at me yesterday in concern.

"Oh, for goodness sake," I scoffed, unable to help myself. "I'm so tired of hearing how people are worried or I don't look good or whatever is the matter with Katie. I'm fine. Relax."

She approached me later, asking earnestly if I was angry at her - if she'd done something to offend me. I shook my head, sighing in frustration at myself, telling her I was just off lately. And it really wasn't her. It was me.

"But I love sweet, happy Katie," she said gently, reaching to wrap her arm around me.

"Yeah," I agreed. "Me, too."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunny Side Down

"Katie Marie," my office-neighbor teased and I looked up to smile at him quizzically. "You said you weren't going to send the link."

I nodded, remembering that I'd noted my possession of a presentation he desired. I told him I'd put it on the standard site my group uses and if he hadn't taken note of my multiple emails directing him to said site, he obviously did not deserve the presentation at all. He'd made a face at my remark and I'd changed my mind by morning, sending a quick email to those interested with the direct link for easy downloading.

"I'm in a better mood this morning," I explained. "I don't feel the need to make others' lives difficult because I am unhappy."

"Say again," he requested, coming around the corner so I could see as well as hear him.

"Unhappy people spread unhappiness," I explained. "When I'm happy, I'm helpful. When I'm sad, I tend to spread misery more than I should."

"You're not an unhappy person," he corrected me firmly and I smiled at him.

"I try not to be," I replied, which is true. Even as I recognize that all people are complex creatures with varying moods and motivations, I hope that I end up - in the summary view - as being kind and thoughtful and happy.

"Why did she cry?" I asked Mom when she told me about Little One's birthday party.

"I don't know," she sighed. "She wanted to open presents but I said we should have dinner first and she got sad and went in her room. Closed the door."

I frowned, remembering similar reactions from a younger Katie who reminds of me of Little One an alarming amount. "You need to practice coping strategies," I decided. "Look online for sensitive children with a tendency to get sad. Find out if there are breathing techniques or visualization methods that can help her move through that without reacting so strongly."

"We should," she replied. "I will," she revised. "I should have done that for you. She's just so much like you, Katie."

"I'm OK," I reminded her. "I struggle sometimes, but I'm fine. It's just that if she can get more control over it while she's young, perhaps it won't affect her so much later. But don't make her feel sick or wrong." I remembered being threatened with the psychiatrist in my teenage years, much as she'd threatened me with daycare when I was a disobedient toddler. "There is nothing bad about her," I stated sternly. "She just needs a little guidance on how to handle criticism and unpleasant news."

"We'll look it up," she promised and I nodded.

"You'll get better," Friend told me when she was here last weekend. And, largely because she was here - I think depression fears her - I did start emerging from the dark apathy. This week was much better.

"Only to wait until the next time I get worse again," I replied in a chat window later this week. Perhaps it's time to develop better coping strategies of my own.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In 3 Parts

"They're in my room," I frowned, more than moderately annoyed at the disruption to my perfect plan. I had arrived 45 minutes early, ready to tidy and power on the various systems to host my guest. I had waited, quietly impatient, until the limo service called to tell me they were en route. I then interrupted apologetically, asking the group to wrap it up.

****

"Don't try to change the world, Katie," he advised. I had stopped to say good-bye, having heard that it was his last day and wanting to share my best wishes. "It seems like a great idea - exciting and meaningful - but it ends up with you all alone and failing."

"I'm sorry," I said, squeezing his shoulder in sympathy and affection as it shrugged. "You should be happier in this new job though, right?"

"Maybe," he replied. "I just know this isn't working and left before they made the choice to force me out. The funny thing? I can point to the decision that brought me here. I wanted to do something new and different. And it was far more difficult than I ever dreamed."

****

I walk Chienne each morning, waiting semi-patiently while she sniffs and snuffles. Of late, we've been skirting the corner at the bottom of the hill on which my house perches. It's where the neighborhood children wait for the school bus.

So when we emerge before 6:45 - me in pajamas and Chienne on her leash - the older group lingers in a cloud of perfume. It burns my eyes when we move past, so I blink at the younger boy who waits past the tree some 10 yards from the corner. His glasses perch on his nose and jacket hangs from small shoulders and he watches - but does not interact with - the older group.

He simply waits, standing there away from the corner, until they leave so that he can take his place at the curb to wait for the next bus. And, a bit of an early bird myself, I smile at him, feeling a mixture of hope and despair as I wonder if he worries - as I did - about being late. Being unliked. Embarrassed. Unsuccessful.

****

Upon asking a second time for them to vacate my conference room so I could prepare it for my very important visitor, I raised an eyebrow at the leader who motioned me out of the room.

"I'm sorry," I said, my tone indicating otherwise, "but I do have it reserved and our guest has arrived."

"I'm sorry," he replied with a glare. "But you should respect that these people have been let go and this is their final meeting about severence."

I blinked at him, unsure of what to say other than my 'then the room should have been reserved' which did not at all convey my sympathy and horror that it might someday be me in there - hearing some trite final words before being asked to leave before the rest of the staff arrived on campus.

I recalled that something like 12% of companies are planning lay-offs next year. And it all seemed hopeless - the travel and plans and documents and visitors. So I said brief prayers as they moved from the room and threw myself into the distraction of my guest for the remainder of the day, eager to forget.

****

"So what's the plan?" I asked my former colleague, looking around at his box of belongings. "If not to change the world?"

"Just make it through the next day," he sighed and I smiled and motioned for him to stand so I could give him a hug.

"Be happy as you're making it through those days," I ordered gently and with a final pat on his arm, waved farewell before leaving his office.

****

I returned to my house after making our typical loop and my heart was happy to hear him - the boy with glasses - laugh, surrounded by the group of girls who live nearby. He has a good laugh - lilting and happy - and I wondered if his mom made him come out early to wait.

Perhaps he's never worried. Always successful. Popular and fun.

Ready, willing and able to change the world.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Serendipitous

I recognized the number when my cell phone rang, having stopped myself from dialing it last night.

"Please come," I wanted to beg Friend. "I've screwed it all up and I'm scared to tell anyone and I'm not well. The darkness is looming and I want to just let it wash over me until I go numb. But I can't. I can't let it all crumble now but I don't know how to stop it."

But, I thought after returning from work, blinking against the tears I'd held back all day, I did not deserve this rescue. No longer stupid and needy, I was now more selfish and needy and had missed multiple opportunities to be there for her. I would not ask her to be here for me.

Instead, I took 1000 mg of Acetominophen, 60 of Fluoxetine and 50 of Dipehnhydramine HCl and felt the frantic pace of my heart slow and mind - busy with loops of worry and fear and darkness - ease under the influence of anti-depressants and sedatives. And I eventually went to sleep.

"Where are you?" she asked when I answered the phone this morning.

"I'm home," I replied, glancing around at the brown furniture in my small living room. We don't talk often, though we do chat at times, so I was pleased to hear her sounding happy. Friend doesn't really do peppy, but were she someone else, I might have used that word. Anyway, she explained that she might be stranded tonight in a nearby metropolis after missing her connecting flight. And, if so, she wondered if I would want to come fetch her.

"Yes," I replied before she finished. "I would love to see you!" And so I hung up with the vague hope of delays and seeing one of my favoritest people.

"I could just ask if they'd let me go home tomorrow," she offered when she called again, en route to her first airport. And after some back and forth on plans, we decided I'd fetch her this evening and drop her off tomorrow afternoon.

In between? I'll tell secrets and get advice. And hope to God it makes me feel at least a little better.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Escape

Had I been asked to identify the smallest space in my house, I'd likely have picked the powder room. Holding only a toilet and sink, it's cozy at best. It turns out that the section of the master bath - containing naught but a toilet - is the smallest though.

I realized this after I released my precious puppy from the latter space upon returning from work yesterday.

"She locked herself in," I told PrettyHair and she gasped. I nodded in sympathy, thinking of the poor, blind Chienne, stuck in a 3x3 foot space, unable to escape.

"How did you open the door?" she asked and I cocked my head at her. "It was locked?" she clarified.

"Oh, no. I used the wrong word - I do that. She wasn't locked. Just trapped. And she's fine."

"Did she do any damage?" asked another colleague and I shook my head, mentioning that the wind had blown closed the door of the bedroom.

"I think that when I got home and was calling her, she tried again to get out of the bedroom and ended up in the bathroom instead. She was pretty disoriented when she did get free - damn closed door threw her off. But she stayed close and we cuddled and had dinner and then slept. So all is well."

We completed mid-year reviews at work a few weeks ago. It turned out that my goals for myself had diverged from Adam's goals for my job. So, I thought with mild confidence, perhaps it was time to go a different direction! So when an opportunity came, I took it. Because that's what over-confident Katies do. (Plus, it was temporary and semi-official at best. Low risk, yes?)

I have started to dip my toes in the water - just the very tips of them - and I hate it. It's like I expected ocean and got instead this observation deck 100 floors above ground with a view of the ocean. And while some marvel at the vantage point (and I can even admit it's very nice), all I can think is that I'm afraid of heights. (Seriously - the people, the performance metrics, the mild annoyances and major problems - all Horrible. They're going to make me jump off the balcony - I just know it.)

"Let me know which of these you can't do," Adam scrawled at the top of this year's defined tasks for my current job. So I immediately set about starting nearly all of those projects, clinging to my current responsibilities with both hands and wondering if I could hide under my desk from the new ocean-view role.

Not locked in, I reminded myself when faced when I thought of it - facing tasks that will force me to grow in my skill set even as they worry me in terms of my performance.

Momentarily trapped isn't so bad, I've decided. Eventually, something will shift and I'll be able to choose what's right for me.

Still, I'm likely to whine and cry and paw at the door until I'm able to get out.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Pre-Dawn Panic

I emerged from my hotel - an adorable historic place I'd selected - into the pre-dawn heat of Dallas. I like the light in the morning - sort of gentle and blue between buildings in new cities. So I, in my shiny black flats and polka dot dress, pranced down the marble steps and into the warm morning.

One benefit of enjoying mornings is that I tend to be in the minority. I somehow enjoy seeing things others miss. Being able to snap photos of places without people wandering into the image. So I frowned when a group of men had arranged themselves on the steps to the very municipal building I'd hoped to photograph.

No matter, I told myself despite the worry that tightened my shoulders, and I walked on.

Breathe, I reminded myself upon spying the third rather large group of men lurking in the shadows. Head up - shoulders back - I adjusted my posture with my mental instructions. "You're fine," I told myself aloud but hastened my step and frantically wondered if it would be better to do a quick about face or continue around the block.

The latter looked intimidating and I was already afraid. But I peeked around and decided that the Walk signal on traffic-free streets was a sign. And I turned the corner.

I find myself in that moment too much of late. Like when I'm kissing someone and evaluating texture and taste and feel almost certain I want to stop but wonder if I should continue. That is how one gets experience, yes? And why one wears a dress that's too short and bright blue?

"I can't handle it," I told Adam, nearly hysterical when I read an unpleasant email upon landing back at home. "She's awful! Mean and...and stupid!" And after he'd talked me down and I'd greeted my lonely dog, I couldn't quite catch my breath.

My anxiety - in any of these situations - seems out of step with the actual severity. And overreaction - for me - is a sign of looming depression. Indecisive, anxious Katie is an unhappy Katie. And, much as I hate it, I'm retreating into it rather than battling through it. I'm way skilled at Solitaire of late. And can probably tell you how nearly any sitcom ends. I tend toward monotonous tasks to keep busy - and luckily have enough of them at work that I'm semi-productive.

I was obviously fine after wandering that small distance around downtown Dallas. I finished my hurried stroll with but a few pictures but arrived safely back at the hotel, literally sagging with relief at the bright safety offered inside the doors.

I declined hot sauce for my eggs and sipped orange juice before shrugging into a jacket and heading off to my meetings.

Eventually I'll obviously be fine from this little episode as well, but I'm weary of it. And sometimes the polka dot dresses and shiny shoes just can't save it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Powerless


"I want to be in group 2," Best told me while we milled about, waiting for our turn to board the flight back east toward home.

"Sit by the window," I replied helpfully, for that is how one gets in group 2.

"No," he replied with a shake of his head. "I want to be on the aisle and in group 2." My lips curved in an approximation of a smile and I returned my attention to the gate agent, hoping there would be enough overhead space for our items and thinking that it just didn't work that way. You don't always get what you want, but there is often a way to get something. It ends up being a judgment call in a priority game.

"Sprout escaped," Dad reported when I answered my phone after dinner. We'd settled on a deck by the water to eat fresh seafood and talk of life and business and art. And after taking a last lungful of ocean air, I climbed in the car to ride back to the hotel.

"That's fine, Dad," I replied gently. "He's been getting out lately and always does fine. He'll be back in the morning."

"I didn't mean to let him out," he reported, sounding terribly guilty. "And he wouldn't come back when I called him."

"Yes," I soothed. "He knows his own feline mind. But I'd be surprised if he wasn't inside when you wake up tomorrow. Get some sleep."

And, sure enough, Dad reported that he went on the deck the next morning to call for the cat, hearing a meow in reply from inside the screen where Sprout looked at him inquisitively from the kitchen floor.

"I was worried about him," Dad told me and I smiled. And with a swish of a stripey tail, Sprout went to find a spot in the sunshine so he could nap.

"I want to go home," I whined to Best upon landing in our layover city. But despite our best efforts, a plane that left California 3 hours late didn't allow for our presence on the connecting flight and my shoulders slumped in a dangerous mixture of exhaustion and frustration.

"We were up at 3:30AM to get here yesterday!" I recited, trailing along behind him so we could make alternate plans. "We spent 5 hours at the airport before catching a long flight and missing our connection. It's 10:30PM. I'm tired. I have a 7:00AM meeting tomorrow and I have to catch a 6AM flight again on Sunday! Damn you, United."

"Feel better?" he asked, tugging his suitcase behind him, shoulders slumped in a manner similar to mine.

"No," I pouted, wanting to whimper. "But there's nothing I can do about it."

So whether it's an iPad running out of power just before I finished my book or San Diego's shrinking fishing fleet of charming boats or the fact that, try as I might, I couldn't get to sleep until after 3AM and had zero energy with which to think during important meetings today, there are some things one can't control.

And then there's the delicious moment where my head hits the pillow and muscles relax and a marine-layer like fog envelops my brain when nothing matters all that much anymore.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Great Escapes

Creature One - Sir Sprout
Chienne exhibits stubborn resistance to the use of her dog doors. I, in turn, exhibit strong displeasure when she has an accident in the basement. Hence, we've taken to spending time together out back.

I coax her out the sliding glass door to the deck and settle myself on the low steps leading to the grass. Then I shake my head at Sprout's plaintive calls through the screen as Chienne makes her way slowly around her once-familiar yard.

On Friday, feeling rather permissive, I invited the stripey cat out with us as we soaked in the last of the setting sunshine. (I told Friend he escaped - no tattling, OK?) I smiled as he placed his paws carefully on the paint-chipped wood, smoothing his coat when he came to my side and shaking my head when he finally lept gracefully off the edge to land behind the shed.

I wasn't worried when canine and Katie entered without him - it was pleasantly cool and typically quiet in my neighborhood. But I did leave the house with a flashlight in hand, hurrying toward the neighbor's landscaped hill when I heard him meowing - long and loud - hours later. But he ran from my attempt at rescue and I scowled at him as he scampered past the thin, glowing beam of light.

Creature Two - Mr. Frog & Friends
My lawn has grown long over past weeks. I chose to mostly ignore this as it makes me feel more productive to mow an overgrown yard than one that's just modestly messy. But as I attempted to battle the massive weeds last night, my mower stuttered and coughed then refused to start again. So, a single lap in, I stopped and frowned and told Sprout - who had magically found his way back in the house by 7AM Saturday morning - that he was not allowed outside again since he'd displayed no respect for curfew and I'd waited up past 2AM for him.

I returned to the yard this morning, coaxing the mower to life while Chienne wandered carefully around the yard. The grass and weeds continued to choke the poor machine so I abandoned the self-propelled feature and propelled it myself. I paused, waiting for the grass and weeds to be chewed up and spit out when I saw a creature clumsily leap from within the towering (to said creature - not necessarily to me) growth.

Frowning, I nudged the mower forward another couple of inches and gasped when the amphibian reappeared, hopping as though he was unsure of which direction to flee.

"Well, hell," I said, voice unheard over the roar of the mower and stood there indecisively. I saw a smaller frog hop frantically toward the clippings at the fence, burrowing beneath while I smiled at his intelligence - I was obviously done over there. The larger one remained in my path, however, and the thought of mowing him down was awful.

So I left him a patch of tall grass in the corner of the yard, pausing each time to make sure he wasn't inadvertently hit while making his way to the little oasis. I will admit I hope he doesn't die - I think the length of the lawn provided a moist underlayer for our ribbetty guests. I'd go to take a photo for you but I'm afraid I'd find sun-dried frog.

Creature Three - Chienne Marie
Upon my triumphant completion of the lawn, I beamed at my tiny, fenced kingdom and patted my pretty puppy when she trotted to my side.

"All done!" I reported. "Now we just put the mower and gasoline back in the garage and call it a day!" She wagged her tail and, appreciating the support, I decided to let her out the gate and in through the garage rather than going out of my way and coaxing her back up on the deck and through the sliding door. Then she gets inside in a way that's more convenient for me. And - being blind and all - it's not like she'd revert to old habits and run away.

Except that she did.

"Wait," I called warningly when she trotted down the driveway. Away from the house - which was the way I had nudged her - and toward the street. I called her name and praised when she paused, but she continued on her way when I approached, stumbling off the curb and into the street once again.

I repeated her name as she stumbled into the curb on the other side, climbing up and running promptly into a tree before continuing on past the houses across the street. I cursed under my breath and smiled with evil satisfaction when she smacked into a shed. "I hope that hurt," I told her, then she thwarted me by running past my grip.

I broke into a jog, lost one flip-flop and finally wrapped my fingers around her pink collar. Without a leash, I walked the block or so back home bent over her.

"Bad Dog!" I scolded when we finally reached the driveway. I shoved her inside the gate before putting the mower away and making sure avenues of future escape were firmly closed. She obligingly put her tail down and lowered her head, lapping at water in her dish before settling on the couch for a nap.

Which I now need as well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tech Support

"Did you call?" I asked around a yawn after dialing Dad's cell. I nodded when he said they needed help with emailing a document Mom had written to the fellowship group she was in.

"She typed all these notes and she got them to print but now she can't send them to anyone. And we've clicked a bunch of stuff but nothing works." So I logged into their Gmail account (because this happens sometimes) and nodded upon viewing the document.

"Do you want all but the first line indented?" I asked, frowning at the format before rubbing at the ache in my head.

"No!" she replied and I could hear her tapping at keys and clicking on options. I did the same, nudging at margins and looking at formatting options.

"Crap," I finally muttered. "I don't know what to do." And I wrinkled my nose over using brute force and just retyping the 5 pages of notes on who was running vacation Bible school and whose turn it was to bring cookies next time. (Though I would consider attending women's fellowship on carrot cake day - I do enjoy carrot cake.)

So I listened to stories about day care drama with the other grandparents and how they bought into a vacation program ("We're spending your inheritance!" Dad happily reported in the background and I laughed.) while I looked up document templates until I found one that I liked. I pasted the document and the text aligned neatly along the left margin.

"I did it!" I reported and Mom immediately looked since we both remained logged into her account. So she copied and pasted into Gmail and sent the note to her group, leaving Dad time to ask if I'd seen this super-funny email forward. (Oh, how he loves the email forward. And, oh, how I do not care about email forwards...)

And I smiled before taking more Advil because I'd been helpful. And when my job leaves me feeling a bit like I'm chasing my non-existent tail, I'll take any moments of being effective that I can find.

Though, on that note, I am shifting responsibilities if not roles. While I've firmly turned down a relocation opportunity (given my canine situation as well as the underlying fact that I'm very settled here and have zero (well, minimal) desire to move), there is a lingering chance that I'll spend more time in Paris.

So I remind myself I'm lucky to do something that's lucrative and stable. That I work for someone who, while not without faults, does try to point me in directions I will find suitable and satisfying and takes into account what I enjoy and where I do feel effective.

I'm counting my blessings even as I scowl at other situations I'm choosing not to discuss. And hoping a little that said situations eventually sort themselves out as work seems to be doing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Largely the Same

"What?" I asked when Adam looked at me, appearing to be puzzled.

"Your hair is different," he replied, narrowing his eyes into a squint.

"I washed it at 3 this morning then went back to bed," I told him. "This is how it looks when it dries naturally." I tried to smooth the waves that I'd left alone to tickle my back left bare by the dress I'd chosen.

As of late, I've not been unwell. I like those statements - I say a lot 'I don't disagree' or 'I'm not unhappy.' Chienne is fine - she's adjusting reasonably well and still greets me with excessive joy when I return from my forays into the outside world. We eat and sleep and take walks in weather turned deliciously cool.

I sleep best in the early hours, knowing that when I climbed into bed to dampen pillows with wet hair that I would be the opposite of an eager beaver or early bird this Monday morning. So I sighed upon opening my eyes, taking a moment to admire the sheer drape fluttering in the open door before closing them again.

I rested as dawn nudged along the edge of my consciousness, vaguely aware of the brightening light and chirping of birds as the morning grew later. But I closed my eyes tighter, burrowing deeper into my comforter and feeling my lips curve when Chienne cuddled closer - her back to mine. "We're still sleepy, huh, pretty?" I murmured and drifted into dreams again.

And in these dreams - the ones this morning - I was beautiful and capable and patient and kind. I had crushes on me capable of loving me and did projects with stunning talent and ambitious time lines. Chloe could see and pranced around the edges of her yard, barking happily at the neighborhood dogs and wagging her tail so hard that it made a loud thwapping sounds upon striking the wooden fence. There were flowers in gentle pastels and just enough clouds filtering the sunlight.

I sighed again, arching into a stretch atop my flannel sheets, when Sprout scampered by in his stripey glory, meowing at the birds in the morning. But I fought the urge to hurry Chienne through her walk, taking deep breaths and practicing patience as she paused her trotting paws at every tree or random smell. Her tail wagged at other dogs and she lifted her head to be petted, jumping only a little when they startled her from an odd direction.

I moved one step closer to a near-impossible goal at work. I ate lunch with Adam and polished presentations between populating spreadsheets. I argued half-heartedly, looking longingly out windows toward the sunshine. I returned home with a guacamole-laden burrito to share with my dog and took pictures - the first I've taken in weeks - of some weeds in the yard.

And that's all there is to tell right now.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Quiet

I'm uncharacteristically passive of late. Would rather listen than speak. Learn instead of teach. Wait in favor of acting.

So I type posts and comments but delete without publishing. Nothing is right - some words come close, but the pages fail to communicate anything of value or interest. So I read books or play games or take naps.

This is not to say I'm unwell. I work. I sleep and eat and walk with my pretty dog. And she's adjusting very well with just a couple of blips to adjust medications. We've extended our walks to normal length but they've increased dramatically in duration. Instead of our brisk wanderings, each of us lost in our own thoughts, we now move with a shorter tether. I remind myself to watch carefully - alert her with a gentle 'careful' to oncoming bushes or fences or landscaping. She mostly heeds the gentle tugs to her leash and I smile as she trots along with her ears perked and tail up. It's progress.

But when I begin to relax, to ease into daydreams or plan professional activities, she'll gasp, startled when she stumbles. Or wince when her snout bounces off a mailbox. And I remind myself that it's different now. That I must focus on the moment and answer the question before me and grasp for patience I do not typically possess.

It leaves me unsettled and exhausted. So when work offers a challenge, I tend to sigh rather than pounce. I don't care as much as I should - having this sense that it's all so fleeting and trivial.

So I've increased my dose of trusty SSRIs. And force myself to follow a proper schedule with adequate productivity. While hoping that while the blindness is permanent for Chienne, this mood will soon pass for me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Something other than Sad

"Can I be done?" I asked as we entered hour 3 of the meeting I was attending by phone. I'd mustered my energy and gathered my wits between gentle encouraging comments to Chienne to be careful or curl up next to me to rest. But I was weary - ever so sick of the same conversations with the same people.

I'm so tired. Of the arguments at work. Of the appointments at home. Of questions without good answers. Of projects without purpose. Where I look forward - more than anything - to my escape into sweet sleep and deep dreams.

I walked in this weird field that was forbidden - all dirt and barbed wire and weird fences that rested flat on the ground. I was with a friend from my childhood - I hadn't wanted to go in the field as I knew it wasn't for me - but she insisted so I followed, warning her all the while. A man moved outside the building in the background and chased us but only caught me, taking ruthless advantage of my stumbling attempt to flee with a smooth tackle. Yet I was unharmed when I landed in the soft soil, the color a rich brown. I remember thinking that it felt almost fluffy.

Acknowledging defeat in the face of the larger, stronger man who'd pinned my wrists while his body rested atop mine, I curled my fingers into the ground and waited. I merely closed my eyes when he called me fatty - taunting my inability to escape in a deep voice. Defenseless and guilty, I waited, slowly catching my breath as I rested my cheek on the ground and wondered what he'd do to me as I felt his breath on the nape of my neck.

The light changed, glowing softly as it emerged from the scary shadows around the field, as his grip on my wrists changed. He tickled the inside of my palms with his fingertips, allowing me to lace my fingers with his and relax into the small comfort. As I did, we suddenly stood together inside a home as coffee brewed on a counter nearby.

I was blissfully unconcerned - felt gently happy and peaceful - and smiled into green eyes before cuddling into his side and sighing with the relief of feeling safe and loved. Eventually I tilted my head back, disturbing the quiet of the moment with only the sound of my lips as they touched his. The caress lingered as I explored the corner of his mouth before he licked my lower lip. The lights around us grew brighter as I moved my arms to encircle him, clinging to all the lovely things he represented.

I smiled upon waking, bathed in the bright sunlight streaming through the east-facing window at the head of my bed. I leaned to pat Chienne, smiling and offering a 'good morning' greeting when she lifted her head, turning her face toward me with a couple wags of her tail.

"I had happy dreams," I told her. "Did you have happy dreams, pretty girl?"

But when the mental images faded in the face of back-to-back meetings I took from home in the face of Chienne's whimpering neediness, I grew sad once again. Heavy. Dark.

So when reality's version of the man from my dream sent an email, I eagerly responded, so wanting him to save me for just a little while.

[I could note that while I'm pretty unimpressive in person, sexually speaking, I do well online. Within the lifetime of this blog, I've exchanged my first sexy email (2005), indulged in delightful sex chats (2008), sent racy photos (2010) and even had satisfying experiences with phone sex (2011). So my online resume doesn't extend to nudity, nor have I done any webcam activities, but I'm otherwise pretty comfortable. So when nudged to try the camera thing again today, I winced. And delayed. And finally panicked into outright refusal.]

You won't think I'm pretty, I typed. And he disagreed.

It doesn't add value and will ruin what we do have, I protested. And he disagreed.

I can't, I offered. You won't, he countered.

Frowning, I took my hair from its ponytail and applied more lip gloss. I fussed with make-up and removed my oversized t-shirt, immediately cuddling a pillow in front of me. I got as far as opening the camera line in Yahoo Messenger - with its silly logo of a ridiculously happy face - before panic set in and I frantically jabbed the 'end call' button and closed the cover of my iPad. I even buried it under a pillow for good measure.

But I did manage a few photos later on. Pretty lace and tousled hair and thoughtful expression behind ever-present glasses. I reviewed them, looking carefully at the expanse of pale skin and tried not to catalog flaws.

"I still look sad," I said to myself after sending a couple to Jack. "So trying for sexy works about as well as trying for busy."