Sunday, January 29, 2012

Arcs & Drifts

I sighed upon opening the front door today and beholding the new-fallen snow. Fluffy and blindingly-bright, Chienne and I braved the winter weather and took a brief walk. We moved toward my interesting neighbor so I could peer down the driveway and see what was what.

The day after the kerfuffle over the locked car, the burly pick-up truck sat in the driveway, cab covered by plastic wrap that was twisted at the end and tucked under the door handle.

"Odd," I thought, "that the wife would threaten to break the car window, only to leave with Ryan. Then the husband comes home to break his truck window."

"Both truck windows," I corrected myself quietly to Chienne this morning as I observed the driver's side. I took a moment to wonder if he'd been enraged when she said that he cared more about the vehicle windows than he did about her affair, pictured the crunch the glass must have made when struck with something suitably heavy and dramatic.

I like drama, I pouted, thinking that if I didn't have to work (and nap and run errands and read...), I could have set up camp at my window to watch neighborhood events unfold. I offered a sad smile his direction when he glanced up from his work on his wife's car. He returned it as I glanced past him to the garage they use for storage rather than parking. There was an old couch and television in the corner and I wondered, moving through the snow after my silly dog once again, if he'd used the space to escape the females - wife and daughters - in his family.

And I wondered where they were now. And how he'd be if they didn't return - if having space inside the climate-controlled house might enable him to find someone who made him happier.


"I can't take it anymore," Mom has said. "He's always complaining. Always negative. With the comments and the jokes that he thinks are funny but actually are mean."

I feel badly for her at times. But I also remind her that she is also rather sensitive and dramatic - it runs in the family - and I'd really rather he not move up here with me if she makes him leave their longtime home.

I called them today, a little shaken after meeting my neighbor's sad gaze this morning, and smiled when Mom sounded so happy. They've escaped the frozen north to spend February in Florida and are currently en route to their rented cottage on the bay.

"We're at the welcome station," my snowbird mother chirped. "Dad's looking at brochures - that's how we found our hotel last night. They have coupons and descriptions and they tell you exactly which exit to take!"

"Wow," I offered before a cough interrupted my giggle. I have another head cold - it's flipping ridiculous.

"I found a welcome book," Dad disclosed when it was his turn on the phone. "We can use it to find a place to stay tonight. It's nice and warm - we turned off the heat when we were going through Tennessee - and we're on vacation now!"

"Maybe," Mom told me when they visited for my birthday, "when the girls aren't distracting me, I can pay attention to your dad and find out why he's so unhappy. If he just needs more attention."

"Maybe," I agreed, thinking I was sometimes happy to be single. To have fingers crossed for trips to Europe and Japan and Australia (first time for the latter!) this year. To be able to park in my garage and have a house to myself. And not have to worry about what happens next with a partner who's unpredictable and unhappy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drastic Measures

"Well," I said slowly, "she is a bit high strung. But then, so am I. It's not all bad." And I watched the people surrounding the table nod in agreement. And I was caught between vague amusement and insult, just as I was when a friend easily accepted my self-assessment of 'a little unstable but mostly harmless.'

"She's just not suited to that job," someone pointed out and I had to agree. Adam had teased me about applying for it and I'd giggled in response. Putting someone like me in a high-pressure, intensely political and painfully broken system would result in oscillations of terrifying fireworks and long periods of utter apathy. It'd be bad. And with someone who shares some of my qualities, it is bad. Poor thing.

I was considering it this morning when I stepped out of the house, an impatient Chienne leashed beside me, prepared to wander the neighborhood. My neighbor was speaking of something in a loud voice, which is not particularly uncommon.

She is also a bit high strung.

But I frowned as she snapped at her tiny daughter. She must be mighty-frustrated to scold a little one who looked more like a marshmallow than troublemaker. I glanced across the driveways at her, offering a wave in greeting as we moved past.

"How mad would you be," the woman said into her phone, "if I broke the window?" I raised my eyebrows and didn't tug Chienne along from her snuffles at the snowbank. I've never seen someone break a car window and was rather intrigued.

"All my stuff is in there! My purse and cash and phone!" I squinted to see if she what she was using to call if her phone was in the locked car, deciding it was a house phone. Then I ducked my head, forgetting I wasn't watching television and some discretion was likely in order.

"Thanks for not helping then!" she cried and I heard the phone bloop obediently when she hung up.

"Who's not helping, Mom?" her little marshmallow asked. "Who? And how do I get to school?"

"Your dad is useless," the older woman replied and I grinned, wishing I could add that I hated it when he parked his giant truck in front of my yard. Perhaps we'd agree that he was useless and annoying!

But I frowned when she said her friend, Ryan, was coming to get them. As her daughter asked questions about who Ryan was, a white vehicle pulled in and I heard my neighbor's voice change for the first time. It became light and happy, flirtatious and sweet.

And I sighed as we turned the corner, wondering if they were having an affair. Said relationships are ridiculously common in my adorable subdivision full of working dads and stay-at-home moms. I've actually turned down a request for an NSA tryst (No Strings Attached) (I looked it up.) (You're welcome.) with a man who lives not a 3 minute walk from my house. Because his wife had already cheated on him.

And it seems depressing somehow. That behind the perfect lawns that shame my haphazard mowing strategy and the warmth that glows out the windows when Chienne and I walk after dusk or before dawn and the children that play games and ride bikes and fill the afternoons with shouts and laughter, there is such unhappiness and boredom.

I came home early today, losing a battle with a migraine, and snuggled myself into bed before glancing out my window. The locked car waited outside an empty house, aligned neatly to the other residential structures on the street.

And I quietly congratulated that little car on keeping its windows intact for one more day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Change In Progress

I thought Adam was moving on. (Professionally. To my knowledge, he's perfectly healthy.) I prepared myself for this in the latter part of 2011, mentally distancing myself, being more critical, looking forward to the fresh perspective someone new would bring.

It turns out that I was wrong. Many, many (many) things have changed at work, but Adam looks to be a constant. My first Industry boss will remain my Industry boss, even as the group changes around us and leadership ponders altering the infrastructure in ways that might be dramatic.

But nothing is certain.

I grow weary of exploring options. Gathering data. Various proposals. Tentative timelines.

We work, making progress toward some fluid goal that slips through our fingers when we try to catch it.

We try to do good, but when realizing that you can't please everyone, it grows increasingly difficult to muster the energy to please anyone. Saying no immediately starts looking more appealing than potentially saying yes at some point. And so it's routine to sign messages with 'thanks and apologies, Katie.'

"Pay attention to me," we all seem to whisper. "I'm smart and talented and work very hard." Eyes blink and heads droop when we're shushed. Sitting slumped at desks, tapping at keyboards and peering at enlarged documents on shiny monitors.

I keep reminding myself that I love my job. I freely acknowledge I'm blessed to have it. I sometimes lose myself in the work - start graphing data or focus all my mental energy on numbers that march across rows and down columns, telling stories I can decipher.

"This is a mess," someone noted after I told one such story.

"This is reality," I replied, too apathetic to get defensive over my poor, sweet project. "It's messy."

We stared at each other for a moment before he suggested I give it a bit more time and re-run the numbers after we'd collected more data.

"I can do that," I agreed, ready to end the meeting and pick up guacamole on my way home as a way to self-soothe. "Sometimes things go right in the end."

And I'm hoping that's the case with my career in flux.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

T-3 hours to Age 33

  1. "Open this one!" Smallest One demanded as she handed me a bag stuffed with multi-colored tissue paper. "I picked it myself!"
  2. A hug filled with laughter from Adam when I shook my head at his request for help on a project. I'd replied that I could make him a list instead and received a cuddle for my irrelevant offer.
  3. "It uses a more standard cord for image transfer," I explained to Dad when he asked why I'd replaced a perfectly good camera with something new. "Plus, I had the money as a bonus for helping with an event."
  4. "I'm buying my own," I insisted when Adam noted that - if I were patient - he'd likely buy the team new monitors for our laptops. "I want it in place for my birthday!"
  5. "Aw," I said, smiling happily at my group around the table where we'd gathered for a birthday dinner. "You bought me tea and a pretty travel mug! Because tea helps me be more peaceful!"
  6. Falling asleep to a new SpongeBob DVD while Little One snuggles on the far side of my large bed. "OK?" I asked. "OK," she replied. "Love you," I murmured and she repeated the words with a small smile before we nuzzled into our respective pillows to rest.
  7. The remnants of snow angels made by nieces in multiple layers of snow gear.
  8. $1 salad bar at work - with baby spinach and peas and chicken and chickpeas and broccoli and cheese. How people can complain with such an option is beyond me.
  9. Homemade cake via Sibling. Store-bought cake (with extra flowers made of whipped icing for the girls) via Mom.
  10. Singing (x2) from my family. Happy birthday, Aunt Katie...
  11. Toasts (x4) from my colleagues.
  12. A faithful canine companion who's just as happy to take a walk with me at 5AM as our typical 6:45.
  13. My new fountain that perches on my new storage cubbies in my bedroom.
  14. Recalling Little and Smallest helping my dad build said cubbies. Applying glue to dowels. Pulling the trigger on the electric screwdriver. Pounding nails with careful strokes of a hammer.
  15. Newest's grin when he handed me the gift bag before dinner, admonishing me not to open it until after dinner.
  16. Best stumbling over words when he tried to tell a funny story after our waiter opened another bottle of wine.
  17. Sending email to a man and wishing hard for his reply. Even when he failed to deliver said email, it's a sweet reminder that there still could be someone who makes me breathless.
  18. A pretty new blue dress and matching necklace for work tomorrow - the fluttery hem outweighed the deep v-neck that I decided I could cover with a sweater.
  19. Finishing 1 task I've been avoiding.
  20. Arranging to skip one trip in February while my parents are staying in Florida.
  21. Snowflakes.
  22. Photos of flowers.
  23. Gas fireplaces.
  24. Charming little towns that can host happy birthday dinners and sexy first dates.
  25. Bounce fabric softener.
  26. Coke Zero - I've nearly completed the transition from Diet Pepsi!
  27. My pretty house that can easily handle family visits but seems to snuggle back around me when they depart.
  28. Flats that feel like slippers but are dressy enough for work.
  29. Cardigan sweaters - red and gray and pink and cream and brown and lilac and black.
  30. Forsaking Facebook
  31. Being an "expert" and having the respect of a large body of colleagues.
  32. Cinnamon Toast Crunch
  33. "I like your car," one dinner companion noted as I climbed in and started it. "Thanks - me, too," I replied. And I realized I'm actually rather fond of my life as a whole.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

(A little) Dead inside

"I'm going to blow your mind," Sibling warned me over sushi this afternoon.

"Go for it," I replied, reaching for another piece of crab encased in rice with tempura crumbles and a creamy sauce on top. Had she asked me to guess, I would have hypothesized she was pregnant.

I would have been wrong. She announced she was leaving - both our group and the area - and I nodded and smiled at her before sipping my soda as I thought of what to say.

I had no such problems when I was in 3rd grade and my best friend told me her parents had bought another house. Her blue eyes brimmed with tears and I cycled rapidly through the stages of grief - my heart breaking at the thought of losing bike rides and Monopoly games and swimming in each other's pools.

"It's not fair," I protested, my brown eyes beginning to water as rapidly as hers were. "We're going to need a ride to see each other!"

"I know," she cried. "I told my mom I didn't want to move but my dad really wants this house." And so we cried - quite dramatically, of course - until our mothers came down the hall to where we perched on my bed, clinging to each other.

"When?" I finally asked as we caught our breath and wiped our eyes.

I repeated this question to Sibling as we sat across from each other and she answered me. So I nodded again and thought of my next question.

"You could visit me," she offered and I nodded with little enthusiasm. I could visit Chicago, San Antonio, Nashville. Paris, Milan, Zurich. I know and love people in all places, but I like staying home. "Oh," Sibling sighed. "You don't like New York City."

"I don't dislike it," I replied honestly. "I can see you being very happy there - you always wanted to get back to a real city. But I like it here. I'm staying here. So when it comes to long lunches or easy dinners, I'm fantastic. But long, focused visits aren't really my thing."

She nodded, telling me about her friends from college that were within an hour of NYC. I nodded and asked more questions and felt... not a whole lot. I tried to examine it and the best I could say was that I understood. Neither happy nor heartbroken.

It just made sense, I finally realized. People come and then they go. And perhaps I'm losing that naive capability to love someone new with everything. I read an email from Pete - circa 2006 - the other day. And found myself sick after sobbing - not for him, necessarily, but because I remembered - so clearly - what it felt like to feel that. The intensity of hope. The subsequent misery of disappointment.

I recall driving away from Friend - car full of belongings she'd helped me pack - and feeling crushed under the weight of grief. And I wonder if my heart now hides - only half-interested in life and those in it - so that all I feel is understanding when a dear friend announces her departure.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Flip Side

I scowled as I ascended my stairs, pulling a dress from my closet and rifling through my row of sweaters until I found the one I needed. The eyelet cream that buttoned completely, hanging neatly by the rest of the cardigans.

I'd purchased the cotton shift when Friend visited and it's rather adorable. The only problem is that it has a deep v-neck that is a bit slutty. For a second date. For work, it's inappropriate. For church, I'm pretty sure it's sinful. As I was going to church, I frowned at the garment and buttoned the sweater atop it. Yet you could still see a good bit of skin between buttons.

So I put it on backward, beaming proudly at the high "neckline" and deciding my pretty sweater would now cover my exposed upper back. Suitable demure, I set off for the pretty building perched on the hill where I worship.

(It was Epiphany Sunday. I think my pastor believes that a UFO led the magi to baby Jesus. And he was very sympathetic that they only traveled ~10-15 miles per day. And he's not a big fan of Herod. I also learned gold was given to kings, frankincense to priests and myrrh for funerals or physicians.)

I did not want to attend. I've not, in fact, gone to church in months and months and arrived in my too-short skirt and on-backward dress with a tight smile and clenched teeth. If, I decided, I felt this strongly about avoiding church, I clearly needed to be there. And through prayer and song and the quiet moments where the dozen of us formed a semi-circle at the altar to take communion, my heart softened and soul quieted. And as I shook hands with my fellow congregants, murmuring 'peace be with you,' I finally found some peace within me.

I stopped by Kohls (I love Kohls) to look for a particular stripey dress. I did not find it, but I did acquire new lingerie and a clearance dress (with a ruffled neckline - it's very cute) and impulse bought some Godiva chocolates. I saw a sign for sandwiches on sale and made a quick stop to grab one, gracefully buying the cookies the sale demanded. Because I like cookies and sales. So it all works out.

I returned home, lecturing myself that I would go on my date. I wanted to have my sandwich and watch reruns of Law & Order and perhaps take a nice nap with Chienne curled behind my knees. But instead I would go and meet a man for ice cream. With sprinkles on top. (That was my tentative title for the blog post.) Convinced that I was going and I was going to be lovely, I'll admit to a quick thrill when he canceled.

"Of course," I replied on the phone. "Postpone. Feel better. Get some rest." And I replaced the phone receiver to snuggle in the loveseat with only my faithful canine for company and relaxed into contentment. For I like lazy Sunday afternoons - time for sandwiches and naps and slipping out of a dress and into pajamas.

Sometimes changes in plans are gifts. And if I have the fleeting thought that being alone this afternoon is likely indicative of being alone forever? That's what Godiva chocolate-covered-caramels are for.