Friday, June 24, 2011


"What a silly looking cricket," I told Chienne, for I often speak rather than think, as we took our walk through our soggy neighborhood. Even the air feels heavy with moisture, ground literally squishing with saturation.

"Oh," I breathed after bending to look at the plump insect more closely. "You're a frog! Hello, baby frog!" And I grinned as it hopped away, turning to Chienne to see if she was similarly impressed. Oblivious, she continued to sniff at the tree and turned to trot off.

"Don't step on them!" I scolded, feeling protective of the adorable former tadpoles as they found their way in this small section of the world. I kept chin to chest as I watched for amphibians so as not to squish them into the hard sidewalk or soggy ground.

"Froggies..." I called softly when we walked the next day. "I would like to take a photo of you..." But they had gone overnight from ubiquitous to rare. "Where did they go?" I asked my dog. But she knew not.

And then I noticed the birds.

"Oh," I sighed, feeling ridiculous tears form. "You ate them," I accused and glared. "I'm glad my cat murdered one of you." Though I reminded myself that said incident had resulted in Sir Sprout being an inside cat only.

I finally found four of the creatures, pausing to bring my camera as close as possible and hoping the pixels arranged themselves cleanly in the shapes of the amphibious bodies. While some blurred, others allowed appreciation of tiny frog fingers and speckled frog skin.

I watched for them all week, finding only one yesterday and none this morning. As I wandered closer to the river though, I could hear their song and smiled with the hope that they remained safely hidden from predators. The food chain has always bummed me out.

  • Bird - My bathroom ceiling leaked. And it rained and rained and rained.
  • Frog! I took various meetings and was remarkably productive this week.
  • Frog! Chienne is doing well!
  • Frog! My iPad2 arrived. Oh, how I love it. Oh, how I waste time playing with it.
  • Bird - My lawn is so long. I dread mowing it.
  • Frog! I bought the cutest blue dress that matches my pretty blue flats.
So while the week was mostly unmemorable, there were some good things. And the frogs.

Godspeed, little guys.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Upward, Onward

Mind outpaces body.

There is a moment where I glance up at the sky, admiring the shades of blue as they transition from dark to light, and think that I could take a photo. Perhaps with the tops of the grasses that sway gracefully in the breeze! So I crouch to do so, sighing at the pretty.

And then Chienne pulls and I topple and sit, hand sore from scraping across the pavement and blinking with surprise as I end up on my bottom while the dog looks at me curiously before selecting a blade of grass to nibble as if she were bovine.


I huffed out an annoyed sound at work earlier this week when I was called to volunteer. But I relaxed once in front of the hundred or so people, smiling prettily and replying with humor and attempting to play my role properly for the activity.

"I'm so sorry you had to do that," a colleague said afterward and I cocked my head at her, confused. "I would have been terrified to get up in front of everyone," she explained and I nodded as I understood.

"I used to get nervous," I told her. "But I talk so much now that it doesn't really bother me. I wasn't excited about it," I admitted, "but I was fine. But thank you for being worried about me - that's really very sweet."


Children sleep in on summer mornings, leaving Chienne without crowds on corners at whom to wag her tail as they wait for buses. But it's pleasant to be out early - before the day becomes hot and sticky - and since the sun rises so early, other dogs are often out too.

"Well, hello!" I greeted a neighbor with uncharacteristic enthusiasm. We tend toward polite and kind, not outgoing and friendly here. But the girl who watches Chienne sometimes had acquired a new puppy. A black lab puppy. Who I loved so deeply and so quickly that it made me a little dizzy.

I crouched to greet her, breathing in the puppy smell and letting her lick my hands and giggling when she rolled over to show me her belly. "I'm so jealous," I sighed at my dog sitter's father, wanting to scoop her up and nuzzle. "She's too wonderful for words."

"She pees on the floor," he replied grimly and I giggled before realizing he was completely serious.

"Puppies do that," I offered, looking up at him while I let the puppy nibble my fingers. "She'll grow out of it. Dogs," I disclosed as Chienne trotted back, sniffed the puppy and gave me a look that indicated she was ready to get going, "get easier as they age. Fewer accidents. Easier to leave alone. She'll adjust and you'll adjust and it'll be fine."

"I just wish she'd pee outside," he sighed and I smiled at him before promising that she would. It's just a process of learning.


When glancing through old posts because I couldn't remember something I knew I'd recorded herein, I happened across a photo of my post-doctoral workspace. And it made me a little weepy - that bittersweet feeling of missing what was and being grateful it's over and feeling blessed that it brought me to where I am. I remembered to take my camera to work, tucking it in a pocket of my bag, so I could snap a photo of a corner of my current desk. Because such things please me. And because I am and likely always will be a clutter-bug. Tokens from travel, giant microbes to watch me work, cords to connect headset and keyboard, mouse and external storage and useless Dell monitor that no longer functions. I feel comfortable sitting there - mostly capable and smart and organized despite the piles of papers.


John and I are 0 for 2 in terms of date plans. We had planned to see Super 8 - which I've heard is excellent (and for which I read the spoiler online because I was worried seeing it would Stress Me Out) but arrived a little late to a sold-out 7PM showing.

"Green Lantern?" I offered after wrinkling my nose over the employee's suggestion of Bridesmaids. So we went to see a different sort of extraterrestrial movie, sharing pretzel bites in lieu of popcorn.

"I get emotionally involved in movies," I confided to John via phone earlier in the week. "You may have to hold my hand if I become frightened." He teased that he was good at that and I smiled, looking forward to the subtle display of affection even in the face of a suspenseful movie. While I was somewhat relieved at the forced shift to comic book (and did think the poorly-reviewed show was fun, actually), I sighed when realizing I probably wasn't going to need emotional support. Parallax isn't that terrifying.

But my stomach flipped - which is always intensely lovely - when he reached for my hand, folding his fingers over mine and leaving me to smile and offer a swipe of affection with my free thumb. I took a breath, surprised at the strength of my reaction. Which may have explained my defense of the movie when John listed a few flaws. ("He only recharged the ring once!")


My parents have returned home. I spoke to Mom after returning home from the movie on Friday and they were just entering Illinois. She was tired, she admitted, and Garmin expected them to arrive home around 2AM.

"Call me tomorrow," I requested around a yawn.

About 24 hours later, my muscles clenched as I realized that I'd not heard the phone through my headachy Saturday. I dialed Dad's phone as it neared 10PM, suddenly and frantically worried. Feeling sick when he failed to answer, I changed the final digit to reach Mom and sighed when I heard her voice.

"You didn't call," I accused and she apologized, saying they'd made it without problems and had been resting and unpacking through the day. "I just realized something could have happened to you." I continued to pout and I she laughed. I finally smiled and promised I'd call tomorrow during the daytime. When I didn't wake them with worries over why I was calling at the dead-of-night hour of 10PM.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Communication Skills

I am hundreds of miles away from my family as they vacation in Florida. I've not heard from them since I decided not to go on Sunday and hope they're doing well. I still have guilt over not making the trip. But would have had guilt had I made the trip and left a struggling puppy here alone. (She's doing OK, actually, but it's been a rough few days.)

An unexpected benefit? Getting caught up at work while much of the leadership team is on vacation or traveling on business.


"Am I the dog or pony?" I asked Adam on Monday.

"Dog," he replied without looking up from his laptop but then peeked at me when I beamed at him.

"What?" Newest asked, face arranging into an expression of confusion.

"I was asking Adam who was going first in our little dog and pony show here," I explained. "And he said that I would."

"Oh," Newest said, glancing between us with a mildly bewildered glance before returning to his email while I grinned at my boss. I love when people understand my jokes.


"So then it's controlled by body movement!" our speaker explained, motioning to the model of the camera+computer system.

"Like the Gmail April Fools joke?" I asked Sibling in a whisper.

"Or Wii," she replied with a smile.

"Awesome," I decided. "I am the controller."


Katie (as a polar bear): Hello. I'd like to post this sign. Could you give me the magical thumbtack?

Meanie (as a weasel) : What's on the sign?

Katie: This is my sign. See how pretty?

+3 days

Meanie: This sign is not necessary.

Katie: I don't understand. Could you elaborate?

Meanie: People see too many signs.


Katie: I want to display this sign. Do you mind if I have our zookeeper hang it? She also has magical thumbtacks.

Adam: Did all the polar bears review it?

Katie: I showed it to you and the sloth/sleuth/herd. But only got a few responses. But I've revised it multiple times.

Adam: Hmmm...

Katie: It was supposed to be shown months ago. I worked on it. And Meanie said I couldn't have a magical thumbtack!

Adam: What? A weasel said you couldn't hang it?

Katie: Yes - Meanie said something like 'people see too many signs,' which makes no sense to me. If you don't like the sign, don't look at it. It's a small sign. And not at all offensive!

Adam: I can't believe a weasel said you couldn't show it. Sure - put it up.

Katie: Yay!


Meanie: Why did you hang that sign?

[No response as I can't think of anything kind or productive to say.]

Meanie: I told you I didn't think it was necessary.

Katie: Yes, I remember. I thought it was necessary and decided we were both too busy to argue over a sheet of paper that people could either read or ignore.

Meanie: You need to explain to me why you thought it was important.

I blinked at the computer screen, blinked in surprise and said aloud, "No. I do not." And now I'm working on the next sign (much like the first one) so I can hang another one.


Katie: I had 5 creatures compliment my sign!

Adam: I heard from close to 20, actually. They love it - said it was different and fun and a great idea! So good for you for pushing to finish it and getting it hung.

Katie: Meanie is a weasel. But the zookeeper likes me.

Adam: True. But I probably wouldn't have let you do it had I not wanted to prove that we didn't need weasel permission.

Katie: Huh. Funny how life works out.


I realized, upon reading this for errors (something I don't always do) that the sermon this Sunday was for Pentecost. And how the disciples shared the story of Christ in all the languages of the people so that there was wide understanding and worship.

Said message did not sink in as 1) I've not been only kind to anyone of late and 2) I've embraced my failures in understanding others because they've either amused me or enabled me to manipulate someone for personal gain.

Perhaps my bathroom ceiling is leaking as punishment.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Eye of Beholder

"She has glaucoma," I reply when people ask about her poor eye.

"I don't think so," is my answer when they ask if it bothers her. She doesn't paw at it or play any less or demand affection anything other than incessantly around new people. "She sometimes bumps into things and it pisses her right off when the cat sneaks up on her blind side but she's otherwise adapted very well."

"Her eye looks bad," I offered mid-conversation with John the other night. "Red and cloudy," I described and he nodded. "We need to go to the doctor tomorrow," I told my pet and she wagged her tail briefly before returning to her determined quest to receive kisses from the man in our living room. He avoided her tongue even as he petted her head, offering that it wasn't her - it was him. And maybe eventually they'd know each other well enough to kiss but that time hadn't yet come.

I smiled as I rose to cross the room, calling Chienne over to put in drops that helped very little.

"She does that very well," John complimented and I nodded before kissing her on the head and accepting the lick to my chin.

"She's a good girl," I noted despite her bouncing off of him many, many times while he was standing and her immediate return to sit on his lap and lick his face. "Sometimes," I amended and reclaimed my own seat next to him.

Emitting a long-suffering sigh when I woke her the next morning, I smiled as I lifted her head from sheets scented of Cheer detergent and pried her eye open to assess color and clarity.

"It looks better," I told her and she flopped her head down and snuggled back into doggy dreams while I went downstairs to make coffee and fret until the eye office opened. They could see us at 11 so we took a walk and put in drops and arrived early to sniff and whine at the waiting room. (She did - I was perfectly well behaved personally.)

She hopped up on the bench beside me while they put in the numbing drops and turned off the lights to examine her eye. She sat comfortably, offering kisses to the assistant and tolerating the doctor's gentle prodding with typical grace during medical procedures.

"14," said doctor announced after touching the probe to her eye several times. "So she's stable in terms of pressure - whatever it might have been seems to have resolved."

"Yay!" I offered, blinking back tears. "Your eye's OK," I told Chienne gleefully and she wagged her tail before hopping down to the floor.

"Bring her back in if she has another episode," the doctor advised. "Even late at night or over the weekend - one of us can meet you in here and take a pressure so we can figure this out." (And this is where I offer my great affection and respect for Eye Care for Animals. Wonderful, wonderful people.)

So back we went this morning with a red eye, still at 14mmHg.

"I don't know what to do," I told Mom when I called, scheduled as I was to fly to meet them in Florida first thing Monday morning.

"We're fine with whatever you decide," she told me gently.

"I want to come," I told her, whining. "I have my polka dot swimsuit and sunscreen and do love the ocean. And the girls. And you and Dad."

"I know," she replied. And left me stuck in this conflicted state. Without a dogsitter I trust completely - I love that my little neighbor can check on her but she won't be able to judge eye health. And I hate to impose on her family to drive to the emergency vet should her vision start to go.

"Don't get a dog," a friend told me when I was searching for Chienne after my second year of grad school. "They're so much work and you'll be unable to travel and you'll always be worried about this creature."

"I see it," I argued, "as a choice between every day and special occasions. I can have someone to greet me when I get home - to take walks and cuddle with while watching television - and this daily dose of happiness. And I accept that the trade-off is that it's going to be inconvenient to take trips. Which I almost never do."

But now I've convinced myself that I'm choosing between children and canine. And that I suck if I miss time on the beach and in the pool with the Ones. But I'll be heartbroken if something happens to my girl and I knowingly decided to leave her alone - waving goodbye and wishing her luck until I return.

I'm a bad person either way. And I hate it when that happens.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


There is something lovely about preparing for an evening.

The shine of gloss on lips, the sparkle of a ring that's just for pretty. Polish on nails - red on toes, palest of pinks on fingers. A debate over underthings - bare legs or tights? Black lace or sheer white? Flats or heels? A dress that's a bit too low cut or with a hemline that's a little flirtatious.

Smoothing lotion over sugar-scrubbed skin. Sniffing experimentally to ensure the fragrance is tempting, not overpowering. Smudging shadow across eyelids and deciding between heels and flats. Nodding approval over a new dress with a subtle floral print (if I'm permitted to call a garment with orange and purple blossoms subtle) but playing with the neckline and wondering if it was too shapeless and comfortable for a date. A first date. With someone I already liked very much.

He arrived with flowers after we'd corresponded for upwards of 3 weeks. Said email exchanges were sparked by a shared affection for lilacs.

I'd wanted to meet him sooner - almost immediately, actually - and had been thwarted by travel plans and family visits. And though I offered to postpone when he called to tell me he was running late, he refused. So I reached for my flowers before he was even inside (I love flowers and wanted to claim my first-date bouquet), putting the stems in water while he dealt with my overly-friendly dog.

We went to a chain restaurant after he opened the car door for me.

The location wasn't what I'd planned but my suburb is rather sleepy and since we were getting a bit of a late start, I wanted to go somewhere close. Still, as I watched him arrange himself in his seat and start the car, I sighed for a moment and hoped I'd get a chance to take him to the place I'd selected near the river downtown.

We chatted over dinner after sharing guacamole and an affection for the avocado.

I cursed myself for not being more interesting - not having set conversational topics in favor of curling my hair once more in preparation for the evening. He carried the conversation, bless him, and I smiled at the freckle on his nose and the way he structures sentences. And told him his blue jacket was pretty. I would later rest my hand on said jacket while he kissed me.

I invited him in after dinner after taking deep breaths of the chilly evening air to calm my nerves. That is how I let men know I like them.

So I offered him water (or milk with pink syrup left over from my family's visit) before convincing Chienne to let us have the loveseat. She very much wanted me to sit across the room while she snuggled with her new friend. I refused and took my customary place in the living room while he sat a respectable distance away, inches separating my thigh from his knee.

We talked for nearly two hours before I shifted the conversation toward men and relationships and sex. Because my dating history is fraught with failure. And I have questions.

I'd fantasized about him for weeks - nothing scandalous was written in our emails but the gentle hints were enough to leave me smiling into pillows. And I glanced at him and touched his arm again and thought he really was attractive - solid and steady and articulate and sexy. I was talking about not liking to be forced - in relationships or anything, really - and that I was stubborn enough to dig in my heels just to prove I could.

"I'm not going to force you," he noted, and I caught my breath and let my eyes drift almost-closed before his lips met mine. A gentle invitation - warm and soft and slightly wet - my toes curled at the sound it made and I slipped my arm over his then behind his back at some point to clutch at his jacket and tug him closer.

I opened my mouth to tell him that I couldn't think clearly but forgot what I was going to say. I remembered tensing a bit as I remembered I've not been crazy about having a man's tongue in my mouth in the past (and had, in fact, wondered if it was just a quirk - Katie doesn't like to touch tongues) and was surprised when I felt his and wanted more. Well, that's just lovely, I decided hazily, finding taste and texture and timing wonderful, and guided his hand to my breast before I realized I wanted it there.

I blinked in surprise, more at my moving his hand than in his response, and arched my neck when he pulled aside layers of black material - the silky fabric of my pattered dress, my soft camisole because said dress is ridiculously low-cut, and the black lace on my favorite of bras with the floppy peach bow. It is the first time a man had seen it, I realized when I removed it before bed, smiling as I realized I was pleased it had been him.

Chienne interrupted us - the movement of his lips on my breast and his staring down at my bared flesh as I hoped the sugar scrub and subsequent lotion left me suitably soft and pretty. I trembled and leaned closer to him for a moment, slipping my hand under his to hold on to his fingers. I liked it - despite not being very good at it - and swallowed because it still felt so new and sexy and tenuous - ready to topple over and shatter if I did or said the wrong thing.

I want to know him better. To ask more questions and hear more thoughts and receive more email and kisses and trail my fingers through his soft blonde hair.

"I wasn't sure you would," I murmured of our kisses. "I wanted you to." And after a few quiet moments, he indicated he should leave and I nodded, wanting the time to reflect and write so I could be ready for whatever comes next.

"We'll talk," he said and I nodded and replied that I'd like that very much. And I closed the door behind him, watching him walk down the path under the glow of the porch light before turning the lock and moving into the kitchen.

I moved to the flowers perched in the vase, opening the packet that had come with the bunch and pouring it in the water, stirring with a stem. I carefully plucked the leaves from the stems, smiling as I fussed with the flowers and allowing myself a bit of delicate hope.

"I like you," I had admitted after we kissed. "So I'll be waiting for you not to like me back. Because that's how my pattern goes," I reminded him when he looked confused.

"Or we could like each other," he replied and I nodded. Because that would be lovely.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Good Session

"Growing old," I replied. "I'm afraid of growing old. Terrified." I thought of the old man, trembling hand reaching from his window to retrieve a vanilla ice cream cone. I felt sick as I waited for my turn at the drive-thru, having bought a cheeseburger for Chienne in apology for working so late. I watched him wait for a napkin, extending his gnarled hand with wrinkled skin to fetch it before slowly releasing the brake and moving his car forward.

My therapist - the woo-woo craniosacral guy - had asked what I feared. I'd paused, lying uncovered on top of the table in my bra and capri pants, and made a face as I thought about it. I don't recall his reply but I defended myself regardless.

"I'm not afraid of death," I argued though he wasn't challenging me on my answer. "More of life," I said more softly.

We had started our session by his asking 'how's Katie' and if I'd listened any closer to what my body was saying. When I said OK and not really, respectively, he asked what my body would say right now.

"I don't know," I answered honestly, closing my eyes as he felt the pulses in my ankles, turning my legs gently as he felt with his fingertips.

"Well, what if it could talk? If you left brain moved aside for a moment and let you body speak."

"No," I refused after a moment. "I don't want to." And he'd asked what I was afraid of.

He paused after I'd admitted it was not dying too early but living too long that bothered me. "I'm reading A Purpose Driven Life," I told him, "and this time is temporary so it's not bad to look forward to what comes after."

"I agree," he said slowly. "And I don't advise people to cling to every second of life. But it sounds like you're doing your best to age the opposite of gracefully." And I thought of how I'd told Mom there were worse things than a quick heart attack. Good Lord, I thought, am I trying to kill myself? Albeit slowly, with cheese sauce and chocolate chip cookies?

"You stopped breathing," he said gently. "Breathe, Katie. Through your diaphragm."

"You have to fix me," I told him, opening my eyes and offering my own beseeching look.

"You're going to fix you," he replied gently. "I'm going to coach."

So we talked about life and death, Jesus and light. And he asked if I could listen to my heart if I was unwilling to allow my body to speak. With one hand under my back and another resting above my heart, he stayed at my left side while I thought about it.

"If there's something intelligent in your body," he offered, "something strong and important and full of nerves, it must be your heart. Can you trust that a little?"

"Breathe," he said when I stopped again, and I did, trying to relax my muscles and realizing with some dismay that I'd clenched my fists.

"I don't," I admitted. "I don't trust it. I can't. It's always wrong." He didn't speak, moving his hands from my heart and shifting above my head to hold my head in his hands, fingers providing pressure to ease the muscles in my neck.

"I was in love once," I admitted. "It made no sense but it was the first time I thought..." I trailed off and breathed, lifting a hand to dab at the single tear at the corner of each eye. "I let my heart lead - loved him so deeply," I paused again, remembering. The couch I currently keep in my basement. The fantasies spun so perfectly, so quickly and I fell, forcing myself faster and harder than he advised.

"It hurt," I said, shifting to what came later. "It ended badly and it hurt - my heart ached so much that I wasn't sure how I'd survive it. I just wanted to sleep until it eased."

"And what would happen if you let that go? Forgave him and your heart?"

I was shaking my head even as he spoke. "What if it happened again?" I replied, eyes closed tight and muscles locked against the potential attack.

"You'd be stronger," he answered simply and moved back to my heart to smooth the muscles, working gently at the tension even as I waited to cry out in pain.

"What are you thinking?" he asked long moments later as I relaxed into my imagination, hoping he wasn't going to hurt the tender muscles in my chest. I had been thinking of a date tomorrow evening. Of how it would feel to be open. Trusting. Loving toward the potential of me and him and us.

"I guess I was imagining what it would be like to be better - open - able to hear my heart without being afraid."

"That's beautiful," he praised and when we finished a bit later he declared it a good session. I put my hands on my bare belly, lifted my knees to rest my bare feet on the table.

"So I'm not hopeless?" I asked and he immediately shook his head - said I was very self-aware and that was an excellent start.

"No, I know what's wrong," I admitted. "It's the fixing it that's problematic." But I left feeling gently hopeful and with an appointment in another 2 weeks. I am to practice my breathing and visualize myself as open.

Instead I feel apprehensive.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The New Blue

I went in search of red flats. I love the ruby slippers I wore yesterday but the flimsy soles are starting to fall apart. The fluffy flower over the toe beginning to look a bit ragged. So I walked to Nordstrom Rack, climbed the stairs and began a focused search for something pretty.

I found peep toes I liked but they were too small. The ones in my size were beige and I frowned at the left shoe thoughtfully before replacing it on the shelf and continuing to glance at and discard shoes as I walked slowly up and down aisles of 8s.

"You are pretty," I told a pair of black flats softly, admiring shiny, perfect bows perched above the pointy toe. I took the left shoe and tried it on, made a face of indecision and replaced them too. "Oh," I sighed when I saw the same shoe in blue. "I will have you."

I have been working so my stories are classified. But the work went well - I presented yesterday and supervised a demonstration. I took calls early this morning and attended meetings after breakfast, talking to men I enjoy and respect about topics of professional interest. Then, having checked out of my hotel, I pouted over not being able to nap and comforted myself with a walk to see the library, riding endless escalators to reach the highest public viewing point and making myself a bit dizzy in the process (I do not like heights. Even when they come with interesting views.)

"Little sick now," I murmured after peeking over an edge, knees trembling and throat tightening as my poor brain went all dizzy. I jabbed the elevator button and waited impatiently for it to arrive, joining a family with incessantly complaining children for the ride down to the first floor and out into the fresh air that cleared my head and settled my stomach. I had lunch on the waterfront after buying a book and returned to work in the afternoon, more to pass the time than from any real motivation.

Thrilled was I when I happened across interesting sessions that exactly matched a topic I'm trying to learn. Sans notebook - given to the bellman at the hotel to store for me - I tore pages from my novel and scrawled notes on the acknowledgments and dedication pages of a romance novel.

"Hello, beauty," a slender man with a melodic voice offered with a slow look in my direction when I crossed the street on the way back to the hotel to fetch my things and depart for the airport. I raised an eyebrow at him and offered a brief hi before returning my full attention to the sign across the street, willing the white man to appear so I could cross.

"You're gorgeous," he said and I snorted before rolling my eyes. I would have smiled over 'your shoes are adorable,' agreed if he complimented the paisley butterfly pattern on my new blue dress. I would have even taken 'I like your messy ponytail.' But gorgeous? No. Not even perfectly dressed and fully made-up. And as my face had flushed from my brisk walk up a hill and I'd not freshened my foundation for a good 7 hours and my lip gloss had even worn off, I rolled my eyes at him and wondered what he wanted before deciding I didn't care.

"Are you busy now?" he asked, trailing along behind me as I crossed the street and I answered that I was.

"Are you married or something?" he tried again and I lied without hesitation, confirming that I was. My shoulders sagged with relief when he finally fell back from the conversation and I scampered up the steps to my hotel. The street happenings in Seattle confuse and upset me.

But with my bag full of stuff and shoes full of feet, I fly east just before midnight and will arrive back at my home airport - to be met by my mother - tomorrow morning. At which time I will sleep. And sleep. And prepare to travel again next week.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Ruby Slippers in the Emerald City

"Excuse me, ma'am," he said tentatively and I paused my movement along the waterfront to smile at him. He blinked at me, this darling teenager with dark eyes and curling hair, and smiled weakly in return before apologizing all over himself for bothering me.

"That's fine," I said, reaching for the map in my bag to offer him as I assumed he was a bit lost. I was feeling rather superior, of course, as even my sense of direction can't steer me wrong when the ocean bounds my path. Before I could hand over the brightly colored paper depicting landmarks as silly cartoons, he tugged his sweatshirt closed, pulled it open again and hurried through his speech.

"I'm from Texas," he said, "and took the bus here." He looked at me beseechingly and, remaining confused, I nodded encouragingly. "I'm going to work on a fishing boat," he told me, "but there's a hostel where I left my stuff and I need $9 to pay for the night."

"Oh," I breathed, realizing he wanted money. He differed - in age and appearance - from the rest of the homeless I'd seen that morning that I hadn't known. And my reserve had faded as I'd walked through the dawning light - taking photos and admiring the neon lights and distant mountains as they both glimmered in the morning.

"I'm sorry to ask," he said again, his young face looking pained and I shook my head as my brain clicked immediately into worry and think mode. "Most people ignore me and you've been so nice. But maybe just two or three dollars?"

And I stared at him, taking in the scarf knotted around his neck, the heavy sweatshirt he continued to fuss with as he spoke, the way he looked in my eyes and spoke with clear purpose. And I thought of Henry. So instead of handing him all the cash I had - something I rather desperately wanted to do - so he would be safe and happy and the darting fear in those dark eyes would ease, I shook my head with deep and sincere regret.

"I'm so sorry," I told him and he nodded, stepping back immediately and saying he understood, thanked me for taking time to talk with him. "I'm sorry," I repeated and let my eyes meet his once more before I turned and walked away. Seattle is notoriously kind, I reminded myself then and now as I fret over him. If he needs help, he'll find it. And if he's buying drugs - conning money from suckers who walk along waterfronts and stand in line to board cruise ships - then he should not do that. But I wouldn't mind if you'd join me in saying a prayer for him.

Apart from feeling rather Wicked-Witch about the whole thing, my post title is a nod to my pretty red flats - the only shoes I brought in my ruthlessly efficient packing spree (3 days = tiny duffel and laptop bag. Stand in awe, people). They're comfortable but made of satiny fabric attached to a flimsy sole so I turned my ankle on the train tracks and gagged when I almost stepped on a dead bird and got them wet when I stepped a bit too close to admire water cascading off fountains. I also feared greatly for my safety when I decided to walk down the steep and gravely path next to the sculpture with the logs floating midair.

To be fair, I was immeasurably tempted by the flowers in the meadow around said art, impossibly drawn by the color and calm, the way the rising sun warmed some plants while leaving others in shadow.

"Look how pretty!" I would say aloud, alone in that section of the park. "Don't fall down," I would immediately caution as my fragile footwear slipped on a loose pebble or I grew concerned about the slope of the tiny path along the edge of the garden. "Look how pretty; don't fall down," I chanted softly as I descended. "Coolness," I pronounced when I'd managed it, glancing back at the prettiness and being grateful I did not fall down as I wandered back the way I came.

As I did, I smiled at the crowds dragging luggage on the sidewalks as they moved toward the port. The joggers who always said good morning or the other tourists who'd brought cameras far fancier than mine to capture the morning light upon Seattle's sights. I breathed in the scent of coffee, shaking my head at the plethora of places where it could be acquired and paused to inhale the gentle briny smell that came either from the sea or the aquarium - I wasn't sure which. Still, the reflections on the water and the waves lapping gently at the piers soothed me, even as I reminded myself to take my anti-depressant, knowing the knot in my stomach over the boy needing money down the street was an overreaction. It's a difficult balance - compassion and common sense - and I feared I'd gotten it wrong. Should I have walked with him back to the hostel? Offered to find him someone to help in a more meaningful way? Or was I just being completely naive?

Just very sheltered, I decided, constantly surrounded by people who love me and will catch me if I trip, unafflicted by urges that make me fall too hard or fast to be saved. And though the process of recovery - insomuch as it involves moderately poor performance at work or napping too often or gaining too much weight - is painful, it always seems possible somehow.

With that, I was suddenly and sharply homesick, though I'd barely been gone a day. I craved the comfort of my mother and Dad's strength, Little's questions and Smallest's giggles and the warmth of Chienne behind my knees as I slept. For Dorothy's lesson has never been lost on me - no matter how many places I see or people I meet, there's no place like home.

Friday, June 03, 2011


I picture her sentences as hills - the childlike lilt and quick cadence is charming, but it often takes her two or three tries to get past the upward slope of the first few words to finish her point.

"Aunt Katie," Smallest said, her arms around my neck after I smiled and stooped to pick her up without dropping the luggage I carried from the plane, "did you - did you - did you ride on the plane? Was the plane ride fast?"

"It must have been," I replied, reaching to smooth Little One's ponytail and smile at my parents who'd come to fetch me from the airport. "I'm early, aren't I?" And, after stopping for breakfast, we came home and I fell into bed to catch up on some dearly missed sleep.


The phone rang, awakening me from a deep sleep, and I blinked a couple of times to try to gather my thoughts - remember where I was and why someone was waking me in the darkness - but picked up the receiver and murmured my thanks before glancing at the clock. 4:10AM had shifted to 4:30 by the time I was ready, clothes packed in my small bags and confirmation number scrawled on a sheet of hotel stationary so I could print my boarding pass before catching the shuttle to the airport.

"We're lost," I pointed out helpfully to the colleague assigned to cart me from airport to meeting to meeting to meeting and back to the hotel. He was also responsible for general care - making sure I had water and food and changes to freshen up. I enjoy that part of commercial support - the only focus is intellectual. So I put tremendous effort into being engaged and charming and smart during the hours they're showing me off but then relax in the moments between.

Hence, I looked around at the tangle of interstates that curved across bridges and underground but not, apparently, to where my hotel existed. At least in any pattern my host or his trusty GPS could navigate.

"It went well today," I offered as we waited in a slight snarl of traffic and sparked a brief flurry of compliments on how interested everyone had been and how well I'd done and how much I'd helped. I nodded graciously, thinking a reward of getting to the hotel would be lovely, but reminded myself to be patient and watched the light filter through the clouds and remembered how completely charming I find New England.

Upon finally reaching the hotel - having dinner and showering, charging miscellaneous communication devices - I called home and sent some email and tried to relax. Finally, when I scowled at myself for not resting promptly enough, I made a call after midnight to the front desk, thinking I'd not need the wake-up call (I always wake up on time!) but it wouldn't hurt to be extra careful.

"Pretty day," I offered as we sat outside, waiting for the next meeting to begin. I drank the water my host bought me and closed my eyes to enjoy the sunshine, finally blinking them open when my phone rang and taking a call to answer questions and offer advice before returning to my admiration of the splashes of color in the flower bed and that ivy-covered building over yonder.

It is pleasant to deal with collaborators - to review our portfolio and take note of interest and gaps, funding and projections. Then I listen, trying to sort through local expertise and strength to find that click of alignment. Sometimes it fits immediately - any easy arrangement and linking of obvious goals. But I enjoy the times when it's less immediate - where it takes attention and creativity and a few moments of wondering if this hour together is going to really suck. Though it sometimes does, those instances are rare - when two groups of smart people have good goals - to help people live better lives, really - there's usually a way to combine efforts. It's just a matter of sorting the pieces and aligning them properly.

And even as I grabbed a cookie at my first meeting, nibbling the edges as I shook hands and collected business cards, I nibbled on a salad before the second, drank coffee before the third. And tried to piece together puzzles and make notes so the next section could be built faster and easier.

I waved at Mom and the girls as they dropped me off at Departures.

"I want to give kisses," Smallest cried and I assured her I'd walk around to her side to say good-bye, leaning to hug Little One before telling her I'd see her tomorrow. I kissed Smallest, hugged Mom and rode the escalator to take my place in the security line.

I pranced to the counter when my upgrade was announced, snuggling into my giant seat in business class and deciding a cocktail before 8AM when I had upwards of 14 hours of work ahead of me was tempting but unwise.

Instead I sipped water and nibbled on Combos - I enjoy the cheese and cracker kind - and revised presentations, reviewed spreadsheets and typed replies to a few emails. Then I stared out the window at the scattered clouds - fluffy and wispy by turn - and the landscape vibrant with growth and life below. And I looked forward to what was next - the people and places and things to learn - even as I was eager for it to be over.

Soon, I promised myself, I'd be able to curl in my bed and rest from the physical and mental exhaustion that this day would bring. But until then, I relished the moments that would tire me.

In reverse order.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Part 1
I rolled over and glanced at the clock, moaning pitifully when I realized I had to get up. I organized a conference call beginning at 6:30AM and it was nearly 6:15. Deciding to start brushing my teeth while I got coffee, I picked up my laptop and brushed the hair from my eyes before heading downstairs.

I blinked a moment later, looking around blankly and offering an elegant "oof" when I slid down another step on my bottom. I'd fallen down the last 2 or 3 stairs but had been too sleepy to tense up and hurt myself. So I sat for a moment, decided I was mostly unharmed and gathered my energy to focus on mobility before standing up and moving across the living room to grab my toothbrush and wander on to my kitchen.

Dumping coffee in a cup and adding cream, I flopped on the loveseat and dialed the familiar number on the phone perched on my end table. I keyed in my code and pressed # while tensing muscles and deciding I might have a small bruise but would emerge mostly unscathed. From falling down steps. In a house I've owned for nearly 3 years.

Part 2
"Oh," I greeted the stinging insect perched on the driver's door of my Jeep. "Good morning. Could you fly away, please?" When he ignored me, I mustered my courage and oh-so-gently opened the door, climbed slowly inside and oh-so-gently closed it behind me. Then I took a moment to stare through the window at the bee on the of that rubber lining that keeps water from getting in.

I started the car, reversed from the garage and stopped while depressing the garage door opener that clings to my visor. I tapped the window with a fingernail and told him we were going about 10 miles away - a rather lengthy trip for a bug - and that if he wanted to go back to his nest, now was a good time to depart.

"Fly away," I warned as we left my subdivision, the 25mph speed shifting to twice that.

"Fly away," I said more firmly when we stopped at a light. "Now's the time! Look - you can move all your feet. You're not stuck. Use those wings!"

Instead he held said instruments of flight tightly against his stripey body as we wound around the back road and stopped in a modest line of traffic at the stop sign. "Look," I told him as we inched forward, "a lilac! Who doesn't like lilacs?"

"Dude," I said, exasperated and worried about him despite myself, "fly away!" But he didn't listen and we merged on the interstate, barely making it to 70mph before it was my turn to exit about a mile later.

"Well," I concluded, "we're here. This is work. I hope you find friends and a home and something to eat. And if you want to go back, I generally leave here after 5. I'd tell you where the sun was at that time, but I don't know." I shook my head, tucked my keys and bottle of water into my bag and opened the door.

"Don't sting me," I requested and gently pushed the door closed with my fingertips, standing to watch him crawl along the bottom of the window on my door. "Good luck to you then," I said, earning myself an odd look from a colleague I don't know well and smiling at myself before walking to the office.

Part 3
"We packed everything we own," Dad offered after kissing my cheek. The girls were chasing after the friendly cat who lives across the street and Mom greeted Chienne before said dog could run away.

"Well, you are staying for a few days," I noted. "So..." I trailed off when he opened the trunk, stuffed to the brim with bags and blankets and toys. "Wow." But I took as much as I could carry and helped transfer masses of stuff from the car to my formerly-organized home. Even as the 3 adults fetched and carried, the two girls conspired to open the ottoman and retrieve the items I keep for them. So in addition to toys and puzzles, games and art supplies, papers and books and more toys that came from home, there was a complementary collection emerging from my personal stash.

"Wow," I said again after kissing Mom and glancing around before the girls began asking for lunch and a trip to the park. "Welcome!" I grinned. "I leave tomorrow at 6AM."

Part 4th-coming
After spending last weekend blissfully at home, I leave for Point East early tomorrow, staying for about 20 hours. I return home (yay for direct flights!) for 24 hours, then am on a plane for Point West early Saturday. I'll stay in Seattle for 3 days and, since it's my second trip, am open to suggestions of interesting things to do with what spare time I can find.