Saturday, April 30, 2011

Q & A

Want to know something bad?

I spent a few hours playing Avenue Flo Special Delivery this evening.

Want to know something worse?

I was unable to find all the balloons in a game that must be geared for elementary students and cheated online so I could finish and help Quinn throw Vicki a baby shower. (To be fair, I only had trouble finding stuff - the 20th glass bottle at the beginning, balloons 29-33 on the last level.

Want to know why?

I decided yesterday, rather sick of myself, that I was going to stop some bad habits and keep myself distracted from them. So today I took a long walk. I mowed my lawn and whacked my weeds. I read a book. Listened to music. And decided to play a non-stressful (well, mostly - I did get frustrated with not finding the damn balloons) game to pass the time.

Why not work?

I'm struggling with it. The hours of effort for so little progress. The countless problems without solutions. And, honestly, I'm not that busy - I'd rather I had more projects that gave me a false sense of purpose than this extra time in which I consider the futility of my current position.

And dating?

I believe I could be mildly addicted to infatuation. The breathless wonder of getting to know someone new - of wanting to know random details and meaningless thoughts, just because this new person is so very compelling. So I'm avoiding the dating sites because I feel I was frequenting them too often of late - starting to feel a slightly desperate edge to the search of someone who might save me from myself. And that's not a place I want to exist, let alone one to indulge. So I do believe the dating is hitting a lull.

Ah. So it's a spiritual kick then, is it?

Indeed. When locked in despair and panic last night, I prayed. And finally felt peaceful. Vaguely hopeful but more peaceful. So it's back to church I go tomorrow - to sing and pray and learn. In the hope that I find my balance and a path to something more... Well, something more.

So. How've you been?

Thursday, April 28, 2011


In a puppy suit
I was not well today, whimpering in pain as my digestive system convulsed dramatically. I was 70% sure I had vomit on the shirt I'd dropped on the floor in disgust, curling up with pillows and remaining perfectly still so as not to jostle my aching head.

Chienne stayed nearby, staring at me with her somber brown eye, as she sat outside the bathroom door and hopped on the bed, arranging herself carefully behind my knees and lending solid warmth against my shivers.

She would lift her chin from where it rested on my ankle when I moved fitfully, seeking a more comfortable resting spot, and would settle again when I did, my faithful hound curling close once again.

As I'd planned to be traveling today, I'd asked the girl down the street to check on my pets and had left her a note that I wasn't feeling well but it'd be great if she could still take Chienne out. I heard the garage door rumble open when I was in the master bathroom - one of the closer 2nd-floor rooms to the garage. I stumbled back to bed and flopped on my back, watching as my aging puppy perked immediately upon hearing her name. Ears up, muscles ready, her tail wagged twice before she leaped from the bed and raced downstairs to meet her visitor.

"Hussy," I accused her softly when she returned, having completed her abandonment outing and returning to bed, cold and happy from being outside. And I patted her head and smoothed her coat and winced as she found a comfortable spot and set to watching over me once again.

In a Katie suit
"My Aunt Katie has four bathrooms," Smallest was saying when I crossed the street to check on her last week. One of the older neighbor girls was pushing her on the swing set in their backyard. "And, and a huge bathtub! But I don't like when you push the button - it makes lots of bubbles and I don't like it."

She waved and said she was fine when I called to her. I sent an inquisitive look to the neighbor girls and they confirmed she was doing well. So, Little's hand in mind, we crossed back to my side of the street and continued to draw on the driveway.

"My Aunt Katie goes to Spain," I heard Smallest say as they rolled a ball on the driveway. "And Japan. I get postcards and toys."

"Aunt Katie," Smallest shouted. I waved in response and sputtered with laughter when she asked if I had a boyfriend.

"Not really," I replied and shook my head when I realized the girls across the street were ideally positioned to watch the men who picked me up for dinner or came inside to spend a few hours in the last 6 months or so. "I'm not slutty," I wanted to call, just to clarify. "Well, maybe a little slutty," I decided and didn't say anything at all.

"I dated a couple - well, 3 - guys," I told Little One more quietly, her big, brown eyes curious and attentive. "It was actually 5 if you count everything. Anyway, they were very nice and I liked them but it didn't work out for various reasons." I glanced up to see her lips curve before she asked a question that made me choke on giggles again. "No," I replied, cheeks still scrunched toward my eyes in my biggest of smiles. "None of them looked much like Justin Bieber."

"Do you think you will date anyone who looks like him?" she asked, giggling.

"I really hope not," I teased and brushed the hair from her face. "But there is a guy I like - I don't know what will happen."

Still, even if nothing comes of it, I hear I have lipstick, high heels and pretty necklaces. So all is not lost.

In a Sprout suit
I sometimes pity the stripey cat. Easily started and mostly solitary, he screws with Chienne enough that she kind of hates him and the dog has mandated that he not be on my bed while she is sleeping there.

Therefore, when he does find me alone - which isn't infrequent - he demands constant attention. Putting all his hefty weight on two dainty paws that are bruising my tummy. Butting at my hands and arms when I type or reach for my water because he wants pets. Curling up and shedding all over my laptop because it's warm and seems to be capturing the attention that is rightfully his.

Still, he's a pretty guy and he is deprived of attention so I generally pause and arrange him on a pillow on my lap, offering strokes and compliments while he purrs. And then I generally realize that his food dish is empty and, with a final pat, I rise to scoop out more kibble.

I started to keep track of when he came to see me for love rather than food and so far the tally is zero. None.

Hussy, stripey cat.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Don't Know Jack

"I'm sad," I replied when my massage therapist when she came to fetch me from the lounge. She frowned at me, expecting a complaint about my neck and shoulders and I took a last sip of my green tea, nudging the slice of lemon off the rim and into the hot water. It floated next to the plump pillow of tea leaves and I stared at it for a moment before directing my attention back to her.

"OK," I offered when she said she was ready when I was. I slowly stood, readjusted my robe and shuffled down the hallway behind her. I nodded at the typical instructions and thanked her as she left the room, moving to hang my robe on the back of the door and arranging myself, prone on the table, to await her return.

"I like the peppermint," I confirmed when she returned and asked about aromas. A little sharp, a bit sweet, completely comforting. And I took deep breaths and tried to focus on relaxing my muscles.

I like a boy. A man. We shall call him Jack as it could be my favorite of masculine monikers. And I like him - find him interesting and funny, sexy and challenging. We've corresponded for months now and he calls me Kate. As though I am somehow different and special in my interactions with him. And I do feel different - braver, perhaps.

Given my affection for him - that he makes me laugh and shiver and feel both distracted and sexy - it seemed natural to send him a note when I struggled this morning. I'm better at fending off verbal attacks - even those that include pretty vicious cursing and yelling - and remaining somewhat dignified.

And I did hold it together, blinking and nodding at the harshest of moments and enduring until it was done. It helped - a little - that it wasn't my fault. It bothered me - more than a little - that there was nothing I could do to change the situation. I hate failing - professionally and personally - but it sometimes happens.

And you know when you feel bad - lost and alone and sad - and you want someone? Sometimes a general someone will do, but others it's a specifically focused need and in that moment, I wanted Jack.

And ignoring more than forgetting that he wasn't mine, I sent a note at 9:30 this morning and mentioned my horrible day.

And in the hours that passed between email and reply, I grew increasingly morose. Increasingly withdrawn. And exponentially more ashamed that I'd contacted him at all.

Given that there's no shame (or shouldn't be) in needing a friend when feeling awful, I made a mental note to take an extra half-dose of anti-depressant tonight. But it seems I've fallen for someone who - despite a quick 'sorry' email - doesn't seem to want to know me. Which can be sexy and fun but it isn't very Katie.

So as she worked on my thighs and calves, feet and toes, I realized I want to have someone. For there to be sex and conversation and quick emails and long phone calls when we're not in the same place at the same time. I want to learn every little thing about him and not feel intrusive when doing so. And I don't want to be ignored. I so hate being ignored.

And so when he accused me of shutting him out in a later email, I couldn't really deny it. Though I don't want to withdraw from him, I decided as she rubbed my hands and arms, shoulders and scalp. And when the 90 minutes was over, I bundled back into my robe and changed back into clothes and returned home to take another conference call while smelling of peppermint.

As I settled here in the darkness, wishing it were time for bed, I don't know how to be completely self-sufficient. To not notice when I don't hear from him. To not want more than what is. Which means that I also don't know Jack. And though I hope that changes, it feels pretty hopeless tonight.

(Poor introduction to a very cool guy - remind me to tell you more about him when I'm not all blah.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011


It occurred to me while folding clothes from the dryer that I liked having a separate pile. That my sweaters and dress pants, t-shirts and pajamas were a stack of soft layers to the left while my family's clothes formed a haphazard pile on the right. I smiled at tiny socks and adorable shirts but had no desire to mix them with my belongings. And after I gave hugs and kisses and waved good-bye, I put toys and games in my ottoman that serves as storage and returned to my life.

I love them - so, so much - but there are moments where I have this certainty that an ever-present family is not what I want. The arguments and exhaustion. The complaints and needs, fetching/carrying/wiping/entertaining. Goodness. Which explained why I was taking a break in the quiet basement to fold laundry.

Still, I returned with a laptop and played the Glee Cast version of Teenage Dream for my nieces. Because I like it better than the original.

"I like," Smallest One said, never one to shy away from an opinion, "the Stuck Like Glue song." I nodded and began to search for it online while Smallest frowned impatiently. She sighed. Then tapped my arm none too gently. "Play It," she ordered and I grinned.

"I don't have it, love," I replied. "I need to find it and buy it for you. Then," I decided, inspired, "we'll burn CDs so you can play it at home!" Her eyes rounded with delight and she began to bounce and dance when the downloaded song began to play.

"How do I turn it up?" she asked, still wiggling and "wuh oh, wuh oh"ing and I pointed to the button with a giggle. Despite reaching the maximum level, she continued to want more, jabbing at the volume button as she sang with increasing volume herself.

So they took turns picking songs they liked to transfer to blank CDs (I may have already owned some of their favored music - but I confirm nothing.) and when I suggested to Smallest that her portable movie player might provide music, she went to fetch it despite her grandfather's objection that it only played DVDs.

It did, of course, play CDs and it played them ear-numbingly loud. I got the giggles as Little plugged her ears and Smallest's shoulders lifted dramatically as she shouted along with the music. "I like this song!" she'd cry each time a new one began and I'd nod, wincing at the volume for a moment before admiring once again her utter joy at life in general. She's a character.

"Her motto," Brother pointed out when he called to check in as the music blasted in the background, "is 'If it's too loud, you're too old." And I laughed and nodded, watching his youngest spin in circles.

"She's surrounded by people who are too old then," I decided. "And likely always will be." And I spent a moment in worry for her.

"Aunt Katie," Little One said, waiting until she had my attention before handing me a bottle of Elmer's glue, "open this, please." So I frowned down at the familiar orange top, using the edge of my fingernail to chip away the dried glue before twisting it open and returning it to her. "Do you like blue or yellow?" she asked, selecting a set of wings for the toilet-paper-roll body covered in pink construction paper.

"Yellow, I think," I decided after a moment's thought, watching her face scrunch in concentration as she drew a line of glue and pressed the two pieces together, waiting for them to dry into the semblance of a butterfly.

She's a gentle soul, sensitive and dramatic as can be. She'll duck her head when someone says she's beautiful while her younger sister is more likely to say "I know!" when offered a similar compliment. And she whimpers while she sleeps, causing me to roll over and peer over pillows to tuck the blankets more securely around her pale arms or smooth her hair while quietly telling her she's OK - safe and loved and sleepy.

She's also a bossy know-it-all, ordering her sister about until Smallest turns to hit her. She has a small unkind streak, making fun of those who are different at school and looking rather crushed when corrected. She thinks before replying sometimes, calculating what we might want to hear rather than articulating what she really thinks. And I spend a moment in worry for her.

I know not how to create good global citizens. I can buy presents and dab lips with napkins. I can love them to pieces and scold when they walk in the street without looking. I can watch movies and find blankets and soothe them while they sleep. But, as always, I'll admit to a sense of bittersweet relief when taking my laundry upstairs and placing theirs in suitcases before helping to load the car.

I love what I have - two wonderful girls who love me and come visit and talk to me on the phone. And I love the amount of "mine" they are - just enough but not completely. And, for the next little while, a few hours away once again.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I used to go to the mall - Northwoods - when I was little. My grandparents would take me and I'd toddle along beside them, hand elevated to hold one of theirs while we walked and looked and smiled at people.

There was a fountain on one end - right in front of the toy store - and it had lights that glimmered beneath the flowing water. I would always ask for pennies to toss - making wishes as I stood on the bottom railing of the barrier around the water and rested my chin on the top one. We'd ride the escalators among the smaller shops and I was always allowed to push the buttons on the elevators in the department stores. And I always left with something - typically a stuffed animal - clutched in a tiny hand.

Nearly 30 years later, I tagged along as the next generation repeated the same activity, sitting between the Ones as we drove to a mall near my house. We parked the van and wandered inside, small hands lifted to hold both of mine, and looked around at the shops before deciding to go downstairs.

"I don't ride escalators," Little One said before she and her grandma began to descend the stairs. Smallest One, Grandpa and I rode the escalator, her tiny hand still in mine, before moving toward the playground tucked in a corner. The took off shoes and ran on the bouncy carpeted surface, waiting patiently to climb the steps to go down the slide until I offered a rather impatient glance at the woman whose daughter was blocking their way for a good 2 minutes. Once she was removed, fun was had by all with the slide and the climbing and the crawling through tunnels.

Instead of pennies in a fountain, I fed quarters into machines that played music and gently moved various cars so that Smallest One could play pretend. As I decided between vanilla and chocolate at her ice cream truck, I swiped my credit card so Little One could get a juice and finally coaxed the elder to prance along while nearly dragging the younger away from the one of four toys she'd not ridden.

The child wants everything. A chance at the claw to uselessly pluck at a stuffed animal. Her own juice. Ice cream. Cookies. A picture with the Easter Bunny.

To the latter we agreed and I smiled as she charged up to the rabbit and said hello, offering that she was 3 and her favorite color was green before climbing up on the seat next to him. My mom spoke to Little One, encouraging her to move closer to the costumed creature and promising he wouldn't touch her or look at her or even lean any closer. She mustered her courage - this grown-up version of the first baby I ever loved - and edged just into the frame of the photo, out of reach of the terrifying bunny and clutching her grandmother's hand.

"Look happy," I encouraged and Smallest One grinned widely as Little One's lips curved as well. And after two quick snaps, we had photos to approve as Little One took a wide berth around the bunny with no small amount of pride that she'd braved one of her biggest phobias. (Humans dressed as animals.) Photo package in hand, we exchanged a swimsuit - our stated purpose for the expedition - and debated toys before each selected one.

I smoothed Little One's hair as we were seated for lunch, smiling as she read me part of her menu and telling her she was learning so much at school. I remember reading to my grandma, going to fetch books from the closet in the hallway and curling up next to her as we worked through Heidi before naptimes. And I smiled as I looked around the table, loving all of them rather desperately, and felt a sharp pang when considering that they'll lose my parents as I lost my grandparents.

Still, pain and loss seemed far away as we sipped milkshakes and selected balloons. "My favorite color is green," Smallest One noted to our waitress before asking her to please return with a balloon.

We had later settled on my driveway, enjoying the sunshine and coloring with chalk while my parents did some shopping. When the kids across the street came home from school, there were soccer balls and noise and games which Little One and I mostly ignored. Smallest One, however, watched with open curiosity and beamed when the much-older girls called to ask if they wanted to play.

"I do!" Smallest One called after consulting with her sister. "I have to ask my Aunt Katie but I want to come over and play!" She looked at me and smiled beautifully. "Aunt Katie," she said as though I hadn't heard her, "those girls asked me to play and I want to go."

"You want to go?" I confirmed, thinking they were older and seemed very cool and I'd probably be nervous to go over and play with strangers. And I'm an order of magnitude older than she is.

"Yes!" she replied, bouncing with excitement. "They asked me and they're so nice! So I will go over there."

"I will help you cross the street," I replied, loathe to transfer any of my anti-social tendencies to the happy little girl who bubbled with eager friendliness. So we crossed the street and she was welcomed to the small group while I returned to her sister and continued our art project. I kept an eye on her as she chattered with her new friends, telling them about her visit to Aunt Katie's and her sister and mom and dad and grandma and grandpa. And Chienne and Sprout and her cat at home. And I admired - ever so much - her confidence and sheer force of her tiny personality. Even as I better identify with her older sister as she plays pretend and fusses with toys and quietly reads her stories.

The two of us invited Grandpa to join us for dinner while Smallest and Grandma made it an early evening. We had appetizers and drinks - a little slushy for Little that turned her mouth blue - and talked. And when she was cold, I unzipped my sweatshirt and draped it over her shoulders, shaking my head when she refused to relinquish it and wrapped the familiar fabric around her tiny frame. It fell to her knees as she climbed in the back seat of the Jeep and I kissed her cheek before closing the door behind her.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


"Hi!" I cried, emerging from my car and scooping Little One into my arms for a 'welcome to Aunt Katie's house!' cuddle. "Oh, I missed you," I murmured, rubbing the back of her puffy coat and burying my face in her hair.

"We found the eggs and presents," she told me, offering a smile before cuddling close again. I hugged her tighter and smiled, thinking of shuffling through the house last night and placing 50 eggs filled with candy and PlayDoh and bubbles on windowsills and shelves, in corners and under furniture. There were Barbies in the sinks upstairs and Webkinz on the kitchen table with the sidewalk chalk. And I ordered personalized maps online that I left in the dining room.

I buy things so people will like me.

And it works, I decided as Smallest One came out the door, face brightening in a silly grin as she reached for me and began to chatter about the picture she drew ("it's very pretty") and eggs she found ("on the stairs and by the couch and in the cloud room and by the plants") and how she was at Aunt Katie's house! I listened and nodded as I held her close, helping her into her puffy green jacket against the gloomy, chilly afternoon.

We took a walk, Chienne out front and small girls at each side and my parents trailing behind. I turned my head from side to side, listening to their simultaneous stories and nodding to taps on my arm or squeezes of my hand when I didn't reply with suitable speed. I learned about school and gymnastics and a play and recital. Soccer and their cat and what they wanted to do during the visit.

We went for lunch and I sat between them, grinning at the thought that it was now more a privledge than a chore. I do like children, but I don't love drool or messes or other dining grossness. And I always ended up icky after meals with them - sticky or stained - and wrinkled my nose a bit. But they are, at 6.5 and 3.5, quite self suffient and neat. So Smallest had macaroni and cheese with grapes and Little decided on a cheese pizza. And apart from a couple dabs of a napkin or help rolling up sleeves, it was just like dining with tiny yet perfectly wonderful friends.

We came home to play outside, bundled against the cold even as we engaged in springtime activies - blowing bubbles, drawing pictures with chalk, chasing tennis balls with the dog. Then we came upstairs to play before bathtime. Little One gravitates toward my closet, trying on shoes and pulling dresses from hangers that drape past her ankles.

"Here," I suggested when she stumbled over another dress. "Let's go strapless with one of my skirts." And I gathered extra fabric in a tiny clip when she emerged with the slip of white dotted with blue flowers flowing around her. "You're so pretty," I sighed, smoothing her hair and admiring eyes that look like mine. She plucked a scarf from a drawer and tied it about her neck. And she looked so elegant and grown up for a moment, turning to assess her reflection that I thought she was so full of promise and personality.

Smallest One emerged behind her sister, dancing around in one of my bras and I giggled at her, thinking her full of a rather different sort of personality. She has little of the quiet beauty of her sister but is stunning in her wit and daring, demanding attention and offering comments and throwing tantrums in the rare instance where she doesn't get her way.

"I do not have huge boobs," I replied to Smallest One's comment, teasingly indignant. "And that's a perfectly nice bra," I decided of the white fabric. We played and laughed and made butterflies from toilet paper rolls.

"Girls," I offered a couple hours later. "I need to take a call for work. So can we play quietly now?" They agreed, hesitant to leave the room where I was and I felt a moment's guilt that I don't spend enough time with them. But I dialed the number and reclined on my pillows, focused mostly on my colleagues but keeping an eye on nieces prone to squabbles.

I nodded when Little One asked if she could play with the other phone in my room - it's Pottery Barn and very pretty but not currently plugged in. So she and Smallest took turns pushing buttons and holding the receiver to small ears.

"It's my turn to talk to work," Little One said, reaching for the phone and beginning to discuss schedules.

"I need to call work next," Smallest One demanded, folding her arms impatiently.

And I wanted to cover them with kisses for wanting to be like me - I was so honored that they want to wear my clothes and share components of my life and like coming to where I live. I'm not sure I'm the greatest of role models but there are pieces of who I am and what I do that are good. That could fit into what they see from the other women in their lives and see where everything fits together.

I just love them so much. And think they're so wonderful. And can't wait to watch them continue to grow up.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I dig. He digs. We dug.

We ended up in a hole (both figuratively and literally) through no real fault of our own on the very first date.

Doug had invited me to meet for a quick and early dinner on a Wednesday evening last fall and suggested a bar nestled on the lakefront for our meeting. I arrived early - as I'd warned him I would do - and reminded myself that I need not be nervous. I was older and wiser than when I'd last dated years ago. I was calm and composed and, well, delightful, dammit. And if he didn't like me, that was fine - I was very happy with my life overall and there were other men with whom I was corresponding. And if I felt a bit sick and moved my car twice before convincing myself to go inside, well, we already know I'm neurotic.

I entered the bar upstairs to find it occupied by a private party and the bartender - a little wisp of a girl with long, auburn hair - smiled and motioned me downstairs to the lounge instead. I thanked her, sighed at the ease with which the party-goers interacted and laughed, and descended the steps with a feeling of dread. Blind dates are hard.

Cheered when I found a table by the window, I ordered (and paid for) a glass of white wine and took calming breaths while staring out at the chilly brick patio and lake beyond. I think I told Doug it was a nice place when he arrived a little later, taking a moment to think him rather cute as he shrugged out his puffy jacket and settled on the wooden stool across the tiny table. He ordered a soda and burger after asking if I wanted anything.

I demurred and he noted that he had a meeting at 7, temporally separated from us by no more than 90 minutes and spatially no more than 2 blocks. I recall being amused that I was being tucked into a small opening in his busy calendar, neatly on the way between work and his event that night. Still, I cocked my head curiously as I sipped wine and we chatted easily.

I'm shamefully experienced when it comes to blind dates and I normally predict their outcome. And all signals were pointing to vaguely uncomfortable and mostly disinterested for Doug. Little eye contact, vaguely evasive answers to some questions. And I looked up to smile at the pretty bartender from upstairs as she swept out the door behind Doug.

I blinked in surprise when he stopped her on her way back in from the patio. They talked about mutual acquaintances and I raised my eyebrows and smiled benignly when she glanced at me before tossing her hair. She directed a couple of comments in my direction and I nodded and smiled where appropriate, wholly unbothered by the interruption.

It happened once, maybe twice, more - she walked by and Doug stopped her to ask a question or exchange a few comments or jokes.

I was tickled by the end of the evening, having decided that he liked the lovely woman and perhaps was trying to get her attention by being seen with someone else. I wondered if I should tell him that someone like me would never bother someone like her - there is a reasonably clear ranking of who's desirable among females and she crushed me without effort on said spectrum. They would make a cute couple, I decided, having acquired a glass of water that I'd almost finished sipping.

It was raining outside when we departed, Doug hurrying to his divorce support group. I said I'd enjoyed meeting him - and I had as he was smart and focused and clearly loved his children - and waved before walking to my car and waiting for him to reverse and slip from the parking lot before I did.

"Silly," I said into the silence of the Jeep, unsure if I was referring to him or me or both. But I mentally closed the matter, expecting to never hear from him again, and idly wondered if he'd muster the nerve to pursue the bartender.

Instead - and hell if I can figure out why - he decided to pursue me. But that's a story for another day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bud, Bloom, Wither

"Oh," I sighed to a colleague as the man slouching at the podium lectured us severely. "I love him."

Said colleague raised an eyebrow in my direction and shook his head and I grinned while continuing to lust after he who emanated power and confidence, commanding attention simply by his force of personality. A PhysioProf sort of character, if that helps you - smart, funny, rather irritating and a little crude while being somehow oddly compelling. The type clearly isn't for everyone - and I always move past my little crushes - but that type generally makes me catch my breath, at least at first.

And so, upon deciding that I would identify my first lover and execute my sexual plan, I selected someone from a nearby city and we began to exchange emails. He was right, I decided, as fall fell and my birthday inched closer. Blatantly sexy, focused, confident and generally impatient with my inhibitions and excuses. He would push me past all of that nonsense and I'd have sex, decide if I liked it and then that would be that.

Friday morning, on the weekend I'd invited him to stay at my house for 2 days of erotic exploration, I took the dog on a lengthy walk through the neighboring woods. My mind wouldn't quiet - thinking back on my mother requesting that I not do it just to do it. That I feel something for this man and to be careful. I thought of regretting lost opportunities and getting older, rejecting the unknown when, later that very day, I would be knowing it. Still, I was worried and filled with a nervous energy that I tried to drown in wine as I waited for him to arrive.

Author's note: This post was written after he left that evening and is more explicit than I normally get. There wasn't intercourse but there was...stuff. And if you'd rather not know about said stuff in detail, let's catch each other on the next post.

Late October, 2010

I did not know his last name.

I did, however, learn his semen tasted a bit like ranch dressing and that giving oral sex to someone with whom you have little emotional connection is more interesting and clinical than sexy. (Is the penis not a fascinating organ? I mean, really, it's like nothing I have and I sincerely enjoy giving oral sex, despite the slight awkwardness of finding the proper position and my hair getting in the way.)

I was nervous, drinking 3 glasses of wine before he arrived, but excited after 2 weeks of sexy emails and chatting. He was cute - I loved his glasses and admired his stripey shirt out loud. After being shocked and appalled at Chienne's behavior (she is spoiled), he used the same firm tone with me and, once I obeyed his order to turn around, began to rub my back with firm pressure. I eventually relaxed, leaning into him a bit and grinned when he indicated I should return the favor. I chatted while rubbing his shoulders, scrunching the fabric of his shirt as a I stroked.

"I don't know what comes next," I admitted, blushing as he began to kiss my cheeks and neck, brushing my hair back to angle his head differently. When our lips touched, I reminded myself to part mine and felt his tongue lick my lips then touch my own. "What happens next is we go upstairs," he finally murmured softly and I nodded, gulping with nerves, head swimming from wine, before going to grab us bottles of water before leading him to my bedroom.

I kept trying to cuddle and cling as he removed my shirt and slipped my bra off. I nodded when he asked if he should undress, feeling uncertain and overwhelmed by the speed at which my brain was attempting to figure this out. I unbuttoned his shirt and watched him shrug out of it, then moved to press my bare breasts into his chest, still covered by a grey t-shirt. That eventually came off as well and I unfastened his jeans at his instruction, staring into his eyes when I removed his boxers, making a face when they caught on his erection.

I looked and touched, finding myself remarkably drawn to the heat and texture and hardness. When urged, I arranged myself and began to kiss, my head on his belly while I decided this angle worked quite well for me. With instruction, I stroked the shaft while exploring the head with my tongue, finding the spongey texture delightful even as the smell was a bit off-putting. I touched his balls, "gently," he urged and took them in my mouth after offering suckling kisses to the looser skin.

Even as I enjoyed the exploration - licking and sucking the head - the actual bobbing ("Start slowly," he advised, "while you figure out your sucking and stroking and breathing.") was tough. I leaned away for a moment and frowned - first at his cock and then into his eyes. "It's like learning to drive," I decided thoughtfully. "Not really hard, per se, but there's some coordination that's necessary."

"Keep sucking me," he replied and I giggled before returning to him, losing myself in the taste and warmth before reminding myself to stroke even as he smoothed my hair and told me to breathe through my nose. "There you go," he sighed and I felt him twitch, pleased even when I felt myself begin to slurp. This was rather sexy, I thought, though feeling his hand between my legs - still separated from my flesh by pants and panties - wasn't doing a lot for me.

"Do you want to swallow?" he asked and I nodded without removing my mouth. He was good - murmuring encouragement and pleasure nearly constantly - and I was curious. I removed my mouth for a moment to ask how and he breathed more heavily as he told me to keep sucking and to relax when I felt him coming at the back of my throat.

More accurately, it was the roof of my mouth (I think I had the angle wrong) and the taste was a bitter? I don't know, but upon swallowing it, I did gag a little bit, removing my mouth and watching more of the white fluid appear on his head, reaching to smooth it into the shaft.

"I want to make you come," he said, eyelids heavy, and I swallowed again, wishing I could take a drink of water, and rested my head on his shoulder while I rubbed the hair he'd clearly trimmed on his chest.

"You didn't tell me your last name," I replied quietly and such was the beginning of the end. We didn't argue, exactly, but there was a quiet discussion after which we agreed to disagree.

"If I hooked up with someone on a business trip, I wouldn't ask where she did her undergrad while she was sucking my cock. Or what her hopes and dreams were while she was riding me."

"Sure," I replied, understanding what he was saying but not liking it. "But it's my first time. I want to feel..."

"What?" he prompted, rubbing my back as I lapsed into silence.

"I don't know," I said, apologizing to him. "Some sort of connection."

"You want to be in love," he stated and I shook my head.

"No," I confirmed my non-verbal response. "But I do want to feel wildly attracted and valued and special. And you don't want to know me. And this somehow changes me and I feel like... I don't know. Like I need you to understand that."

"It changes your vagina," he sighed, sounding impatient and shifting the focus of my irritating from myself to him.

"I don't agree," I said, sitting up and reaching for a pillow to hold to my chest, glaring down at him. Then I agreed that he should dress and go.

And so he want to the master bathroom and I went to the guest bathroom and we put on our clothes. He shook my hand and said good-bye before departing and leaving me feeling pleased I made a decision I trusted.

Said pleasure diminished as I sat with my neurotic dog on my brown loveseat, looking at my right hand and the ring that glittered on my middle finger as it rested on her head and thinking it had been wrapped around a stranger not 10 minutes ago. And I sighed, failure settling as the daylight disappeared into night outside my door.

"I didn't," I told Mom, for I knew she'd worry. "He's gone." And I smiled without meaning to as she sighed in relief. "It's not going to happen for me," I told her softly and tuned out her disagreement, took a shower and put on pajamas to curl up with my laptop.

It's not all bad though. That evening I propositioned Will to meet me for our first date and wrote to Doug to try to figure out what might happen with him. And more important lessons came from those men. This one, though, remains nameless. But not completely forgotten - such an afternoon does seem to deserve a blog post.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Fauna as Flora

I've never been fond of birds of paradise. Too showy they are, I've decided, even as a single bloom brightening an otherwise sedate bouquet.

I was therefore surprised when, on my morning cab ride to the hotel from SAN, I was completely charmed by those planted in medians and flower beds, the flocks of flowers lifting their noses to the sun, completely unselfconscious in the warmth and brightness.

I even smiled at the dying blooms, their petals droopy and brown, as it made the bloom look more relaxed, having enjoyed its time in the sun and been content to grow in a less-pretty way, even surrounded by hues of vivid orange and blue from neighboring stems.

"Was that OK?" My partner-in-work asked as we drove away from one of the multiple meetings he'd arranged.

"Of course," I replied easily, thinking we were well-matched professionally. I like to think we're both wickedly smart and rather charming about it. We giggle and plot strategy. We offer honest feedback and discuss strengths and weaknesses of internal efforts. And I love working with him - consider him a brilliant colleague and trusted friend.

"I have a problem," he admitted as we waited in the airport one day and, distracted, I offered a wry comment that he didn't get to have problems. Problems were my area of expertise. I glanced up to see a slight smile stretch his lips and abandoned my task (I was probably looking for my drivers license again) and turned to face him.

"What's up, dearest?" I inquired and listened while he explained. I asked a few clarifying questions and offered a few expressions of understanding and paused to think when he finished.

"Well, kiddo," I began affectionately, "you know I'm of the emotional variety myself." He smiled and nodded and I grinned at him, unselfconscious about my own showy - and not always attractive - nature in the presence of a friend. "I'd advise talking to Adam about how he handles me," I offered. "But what seems to work is absorbing the energy - just listen and nod and understand what's so upsetting. You can also empower her - ask for solutions or help needed or a path to somewhere better."

"I want to help," he replied after nodding. "She's so talented and has this great potential. But I hate seeing her so emotional. I just don't know how to react."

"Some people are roses," I decided. "Beautiful and contained, petals sparkling with morning dew. And some of us," I paused to smile, "are more like the birds of paradise. Showy and silly and only pretty in certain circumstances."

I keep saying that I don't aspire to rosey status, but there is a part of me that wishes I sang soprano and was slender and toned. That I was less difficult and sarcastic and controlling.

I'll instead admit I do crave attention and feel better about myself when infatuated. I indulged in phone sex with a virtual stranger (first time for me - yesterday - it's...effective) and walk my half-blind dog around the neighborhood before most people are awake. I wear pajamas while at home - soft cotton that are always too big. I get depressed. Write a blog. Drink too much Diet Pepsi. Sleep with So Many Pillows. (Seriously - pillows everywhere.) I like watching sitcoms I've already seen. I cry at movies and would rather eat dinner early to avoid crowds.

"She does show great promise," I told my colleague of his direct report. "And I think if you accept her for who she is and try to direct that energy toward valuable projects and overall progress, we'll all be better for it."

"I just wish she wouldn't cry," he sighed and I patted his arm in fond comfort.

"Sometimes we're sad," I offered in gentle explanation. And perhaps having trouble accepting who we are and embracing those qualities rather than trying to morph our wide, glossy leaves into thorny stems and arranging our odd patch of petals into something they're not.

Friday, April 08, 2011

His Name is Earl.

It is rare that I have a title and photos but fail to create text. Yet this post has been elusive - I tried to write it curled in a smoking room (oh, so icky) in SoCal and then again in a deliciously luxurious place located north on that same coast. I tried on the plane ride home, smiling at the creature on the wing tip in my photos and feeling great affection for Frontier and their marketing campaign.

And lovely it is to soar above the clouds, squinting against the sunshine and thinking - up there away from it all - of what may come next. What messages wait on the cell phone that's powered down. What I'll see, who I'll meet, how I might learn something new.

And so I went west - across the plains and over the mountains and past the desert beyond. And I thought of what I wanted - what I hoped.

The trip began peacefully. I crept from the house, quietly gathering my laptop bag and small duffel, loathe to wake my pup sleeping in the bathtub as she hid from the lingering storm. I drove through the pre-dawn darkness and misty rain toward the airport, parking my car and reaching in my bag to find my boarding pass and driver's license.

I go through security sleepily. 2 bins. Off come the shoes and coat. Out comes the ziploc baggie with liquids and gels then the laptop before they're pushed on the conveyor belt and into their security examination. I'm growing used to going through my own, placing my stockinged feet on the marks on the floor and holding hands above my head as my body is scanned. And I wondered - somewhat idly - if seeing someone without clothes helped you know them better. Revealed some clue or secret to their innermost desires. Motivations and hopes and dreams.

Moving to the next steps in my established routine, I gathered my belongings and tossed my coat over my arm, stopping to wrinkle my nose over novels and purchase a bottle of water. I walked to my gate, finding a seat and tucking my left leg underneath me before arranging myself comfortably and reorganizing my carry-on items.

"I've lost my identity," I mused silently, smiling as I thought of SpongeBob, and continued to paw through pockets and compartments, frowning when unable to find my ID. "I'm going to get trapped in California," I despaired, thinking of my planned commute north after 2 days and then my heralded return home on Thursday.

"I won't go," I decided cheerfully. But before abandoning my trip and responsibilities I searched once more and found the small card had fallen in my purse. I sighed, plucked it from its hiding place and tucked it in the proper pocket for future use. And flew to Denver, where I met Earl and continued on my journey.

And as I looked out at Earl from the window seat, admiring the landscape below us, and wondered about the stresses on his seams, glancing up at the ceiling and hoping it didn't open up as it did on the poor Southwest plane. Earl seemed sturdy though, offering televisions in his seats and pushing through the moderate turbulence like a good walrus painted on a plane might do.

I lost my license twice more on the trip, commenting to Adam and PrettyHair that I was struggling to hold on to it. I nodded when Adam told me it was a long drive home and I paused to look at the photo before frowning down at the elusive card. It's me, of course, and lists a number and address. But, much like that naked version of myself that I momentarily considered at the airport, it offers little insight into the person I am and who I'd like to become.

Perhaps I'm making this too hard though. Maybe it's enough - at times - to go through the routine. To take each day and go and learn and do. But it's not my nature to enjoy the ride. I feel compelled to squint against that sunshine and peer between the clouds, searching for meaning and purpose and peace.

So while it is pleasant to be away and above, I'm always eager to return to the world below. Pass my service items to the attendant as she passes through the aisles and raise my seat back and tray table to prepare for landing.

Because my name is Katie. And I have a better chance of making that important - of showing my response to stress and hope for great happiness - when I'm on the ground and surrounded by all the details that look so very small from 35,000 feet.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Champagne, Sugar

I hummed indecisively when Adam motioned to me and the bartender turned his green eyes to me with an inquisitive expression.

"The champagne cocktail, please," I stated and settled on my padded stool while we waited for the rest of our party.

"It's nice," I told Adam after my first sip and nudged my flute an inch toward him so he could taste.

He nodded in approval and noted you just caught the bitters at the end while I pointed at the cube of sugar bubbling happily at the bottom of the glass. I thought it was pretty - the little brown lump underneath the pale amber liquid - and also found the spiral of lemon rind rather aesthetically pleasing.

There's just so much contrast - perhaps conflict? - lately. I'm exhausted but energized by some of the work I'm doing. I hated leaving home - abandoning Chienne with only the neighbor girls to care for her - but love spending time in the sunshine on the left coast. I didn't want to come but am glad I did.

"No," I replied simply earlier in the afternoon when asked if I had questions. Adam had informed me of my pay increase - 3% - for next year and my bonus - also around 3% - based on last year's performance. Because he knows me, he waited as we sat under the umbrella perched over our table, letting me twist the ring around my finger before I frowned and began to speak.

"I keep thinking about how you said I was unsteady," I admitted. "How there were moments of greatness and then those that were far less than impressive. And I guess I can't decide if you don't appreciate me enough because I'm so awesome or that I'm indescribably blessed to even keep my job - raise be damned - because I screw it up sometimes." He grinned at me and I shrugged before saying I was leaning toward the latter.

"Katie," he sighed and leaned an elbow on the table to think. "You had a good year - you do great work. And, yes, there's room for improvement. But you should feel really good about this - very few people got raises last year and you did. Everyone's getting more this year, but you're very near the top of the range."

"It's not the money," I replied, then shook my head. "Well, it is. I'm pleased about the money. But I have enough lately. I'm not struggling - which, after grad school and post-doc - is so intensely lovely. I just want to feel smart and effective and happy."

And there are some days I am - where I bubble like the lump of sugar, emitting fizzles of goodness and light and joy.

Then there are the days I'm not. Where it's nothing but bitter and difficult and miserable. And the bubbles of happiness seem so far above me where I've settled in the gloppy fog.

"Is the top crunchy?" I asked suspiciously later this evening when deciding on dessert. "I had a creme brulee and the top was barely caramelized and it was disappointing." I paused after saying it, remembering the dish I'd shared on my first date with Will and tugged the hem of my dress further down my tights-clad thighs and sighed.

I miss him. Smiling over interesting questions and answers. Admiring his hands while lacing my fingers through his. The humming sound he made while considering some action or reaction. And that's fine, I decided, jabbing my spoon through the extra-crispy top of my dessert later on. (The waiter liked me.) As my tongue explored the creamy custard and the burned sugar that crunched atop it, I decided it wasn't an unpleasant ache - the gentle regret that it didn't last longer. Good memories are worthwhile even if I may wish there were more of them.

I thought then, as I often do, of Doug. And how it's over though I selfishly hope we continue to be friends. And the sense of sick regret is vastly unpleasant. For I hate disappointing people even as I accept that part of being an adult is doing just that. But only sometimes.

It's the balance of bitter and sweet, I suppose. And the faith that the last sip - that bit of liquid that lingers on your tongue at the end - resided at the bottom near that lump of sugar and will be intensely, deliciously sweet.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

A weekend walk

It's good to be home. In the company of my mostly loyal canine as we wander the neighborhood, tethered to each other by the long leash we use.

There are no buildings that nearly drip with elegance but I do enjoy the comfortable homes, the block of townhouses and the paths that wiggle through the neighborhood before aligning in a busier highway. Still, it's too early for that on a weekend morning so we wander in the quiet, broken only by the songs of two birds as they warble in counterpoint under the rising sun and clouds outlined in glimmering light.

"No," I warned gently when ears and nose perked at the gray squirrel scampering busily among the trees near the river. Chienne turned to look at me briefly before sighing over her lost prey. We turned from the paved path into the forest, listening to the whisper of the wind and looking up through the untamed tangle of branches. There are no manicured bushes or flowering beds here. Instead, leaves turned brown and brittle litter the ground near the mulched path and branches fallen from trees are scattered haphazardly atop the gently rolling hills that keep the swollen river from creeping toward my house.

I enjoy the quickening of breath and quieting of thoughts as we progress along our path. Up the hill then down a bit then up again, pausing to search for the woodpecker I can generally hear but not see as Woody's laugh echoes in my mind, a gentle memory of childhood and spilling cereal on my pajamas as I sat in front of the television to watch cartoons.

My head is above water at work - barely, but enough to count. I leave tomorrow for another week of travel, heading west rather than east this time, and find myself dreading it even as I long to place a vase from Barcelona on the table in my office, happily pretty as it holds water for the pale pink daisies arranged carelessly inside.

But now laundry washes in time to be tucked in another bag. I need to take another walk, this time down my street, to ask the tiny neighbor girls if they'd like to look in on Chienne while I'm gone. But it's quiet. And pleasant. And eventually I'll settle into routine once again.