Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Curb Alert

One of my first purchases upon finding a house was an inexpensive lawnmower.  I shoved it across the grass that surrounded my house in post-doctoral city and then had the movers bring it to my current locale.

I grew weary of my hands numbing from the vibrations, however, and decided to replace the green mower with a self-propelled red one.  Since then, said green mower has remained safely housed in my shed.

My mom, always supportive of underdogs, likes to use it when she visits and last weekend was no exception.  Brother drug it from the shed, using a nifty duck and cover maneuver to avoid the wasps, filled it with gas and yanked on the starter until it roared to life, belching black smoke of the quality and quantity that a dragon would have certainly been impressed and envious.

"Perhaps we should not use it," I shouted from the deck, but was unheard over the roar and then coughing too hard from the smoke to repeat my suggestion.  So I shook my head in affectionate dismay and came inside to tell Dad that Mom was at it again.

"Motor fell off," Brother reported when he walked in from the garage.  Mom followed, looking crestfallen.  (I rose to hug her in sympathy - it sucks when things get old and fall apart.)

"It vibrated awfully hard," I said gently, still patting my mother and she nodded, agreeing that it was also hard to breathe in the dense fog of smoke.  I stifled a giggle but met Brother's eyes and had to laugh.  "Perhaps we could give it away," I suggested, not wanting to try to piece it together again only to face the same problem next time.

"Curb alert!" Brother proclaimed, sitting down and reaching for Dad's laptop, tapping away with his index fingers to log in to his account.  "What else do you have that you want to give away?"

"Her desk!" Mom decided and I nodded my assent.  Upon buying my new couch, furniture got shuffled and my old table became my new desk and my old desk sat on my front porch for a couple days.  (Between my failure at yard work and storing furniture outside, my neighbors are probably ready to elect me Princess of Subdivision.)

"Now we wait," Brother declared a bit later, having published his ad and moved the two treasures near the road.  Mom, Dad, the girls and I all nodded.

I was spraying around my house for bugs when I alerted my family to the vehicle stopped out front.

"I bet he takes the mower," Brother whispered and I nodded in agreement, hurrying inside to tell Dad that someone was here.

"I bet he takes the mower," Dad said and I grinned when I informed him that Brother had anticipated the same thing.  Mom had walked over to chat with him, waving when he left and confiding to us that she almost made him take the desk as well.

I was upstairs with the girls when I heard Brother bounding up the steps.  "Someone came for the desk!  He's tying it on top of a minivan!  With twine!  Come see!!"

The girls scampered down and Mom and I followed to peer out the window and wager on how far he could get before the monstrosity of a workspace fell from his roof and splintered into a million pieces.  Brother narrated, counting the pieces of twine and number of knots.  Dad ambled over to shake his head before returning to his spot on my new couch.  The girls giggled and I grinned as I smoothed their hair, all of us leaning to get a better look as the van drove away.

I hadn't really thought about it - one of many silly moments when we laughed - but I was reminded yesterday when I took an unwanted container of peanut brittle to work.  My folks forgot to take it home and I don't eat peanut brittle, so I stuck it in my bag and set it by the coffee machine when I went to get hot water for tea.

I needed more tea a bit later so I returned to the machine and gasped when I saw that the peanut brittle was nearly gone.  I beamed, glancing around to see if anyone new was coming for crumbs and laughed when I realized that I was a little disappointed I hadn't waited to see who'd taken some and if it seemed to brighten their mornings.

It seems that - for better or worse - I am utterly a product of my family.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Courses & Obstacles

My family visited this weekend - Mom, Dad, Brother, his girlfriend, Little One and Smallest One made the trip and settled in on Friday night, and departing again mere hours ago. 

It is one of those wrenching moments when I acknowledge this may be Dad's last time here in this house that he helped unpack and advised on decorating and sweated through landscaping. 

I recall losing my beloved grandmother in high school and reaching to touch her at the visitation.  I recoiled when I realized how very cold she was, knowing nothing but warmth where she was concerned.

Dad's hands and feet - whether from inactivity or water retention or something else - are cold to touch.  So I found myself sitting next to him and dedicating myself to rubbing warmth back in his fingers.  His abdomen is distended and he isn't feeling particularly well.  He wanders the house at night, seeking a comfortable position in this world and it's so overwhelmingly sad.  The grief, even now, eclipses what I've known before and I struggle with and against it, even in tormented dreams.

The Ones are stunningly spoiled, making any and all demands and allowing little time to meet them.  But whether it's going to buy toys or visiting a playground or going to the fair, they are a beautiful distraction - smart and charming and delightfully cuddly at times.  Little One shared my room on this visit and her presence comforted me - I'd wake and look around, sometimes touch her hand gently where it rested by her cheek, leaving me to try to relax into sleep again.

We rode a train and bought food at farms.  We rode the merry-go-round at the fair and played 18 holes of mini golf.  We went shopping and ate out and giggled over television and internet. 

Little One is at the point where she's interested in family lore, constantly requesting stories and listening avidly.  I remember that stage - begging for slideshows that made everyone groan but treasuring the laughter that echoed through the house as we relived memories, sharing them with those of us who weren't yet born during the live event.

Brother worked, quite frankly, like a dog while here.  His decision to come was a bit late but I was quite happy to have him.  Even if he hadn't mowed and weeded my lawn.  Rid my yard of 8 wasp nests.  Fixed my front door which blew open in a violent wind.  Moved furniture a few times.  Attempted to correct my constantly-running toilet (which I finally turned off and will call a plumber tomorrow).  The boy is nearly 30 - which makes me shake my head - but is a good guy, despite the near-constant drinking.  I wish I knew how to help him battle those mental demons, but I'm proud and fond nonetheless. 

And we talked about American Ninja Warrior.  Brother made videos at the playground of him jumping over a step ("Everyone can do that," Little One offered in response.) and moving across the monkey bars.  We giggled and huddled a bit closer together in a too-hot house that made only Dad comfortable. 

I snuggled with Mom as we cooked and cleaned and talked.  She's helping me make sense of this professional could-be-opportunity so I feel more prepared for whatever news arrives this week.  We clung before they climbed in the car to depart, unsure of the future and what challenges it brings, but blessed there on the driveway to have had this time.

I'll close with a hopeful 'and many more...'

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Interview - Recruitment-Style

"How did we find you?" one man asked, smiling when I shrugged. 

"I'm honestly not sure," I replied, "But I'm very flattered by the interest.  I'm actually happy in my current role."

"But you took the call," he challenged easily and I opened my mouth to reply before closing it, unsure of what to say.  So I smiled sheepishly.

"I actually missed the call," I corrected him.  "But, yes - I did call back."

"It happens to all of us," he said, having switched companies himself.  "When the other side just looks too green to skip a second look."

I tell myself sometimes that I'm not unhappy.  When Sibling asked what that meant, I frowned and tried to explain. 

"Let's say there's a continuum of happiness," I decided.  "Where zero is utter misery and pain and ten is ecstasy.  Happy would be 7-10.  Unhappy would be 0-3.  So if I'm above 3 but below 7, I saw I'm 'not unhappy.'"

And though I'd not admit it in an interview (of course), my professional number has probably hovered around a 4.  I'm sick of so many policies and procedures.  I don't understand some people.  And while there are so many reasons to love what I do, I somehow just don't. 

"So you're too old to go back," Adam said during a recent discussion. 

"To research?" I asked.  "Am not," I pouted when he nodded but soon grinned at him.  "I don't want to return to the world of academics."

"So what do you want?" he asked.

"I don't know," I sighed after a long pause.  "I think I want more responsibility, but I actually just want more power.  I'd like more money, though that seems selfish since I do have enough.  I want to live near my family.  I want to have a dog.  I don't know."

"You want that job," he told me firmly and I nodded obediently, doing my best to get it during my trip to their headquarters.  I read old notes and textbooks.  I reviewed documents and practiced interview questions in the car.  And I took my prettiest dress and favorite jacket and shiniest flats. 

I stayed in a lovely hotel and took a nice walk after breakfast.  I drove my rented minivan (that was luxuriously convenient, honestly - I was ashamed of how much I liked it) to a designated parking lot and freshened my lip gloss before settling in for meetings. 

"Nervous?" one of them asked.

"I must be getting old," I replied.  "Because I'm really not."  And it was easy to pause before answering questions.  To answer honestly and articulately.  To be proud of my responses as I highlighted projects and accomplishments that reminded me that I should feel better than "4" about my career.

"Any concerns about my background?  Is there anything I can address while I'm here?"

"Not from me," the VP replied and returned my smile.  "It's a team decision, honestly, but I know all I need."

And though I'd rather love the job I have, I may take this new opportunity if offered.  There is something about a do-over that I find appealing.  Scary-as-hell, but appealing nonetheless. 

So my head aches and stomach cramps and I sleep more than any human should.  But my dad is feeling better (!!!!!!) and they're thinking of coming to visit next week.  And I have a number of projects which demand my attention and make me feel productive.  We'll see what comes next. 

Monday, June 11, 2012


I was reading a blog that Friend recommended, laughing over texts between a guy and his dog, when I came across an abbreviation I didn't know.

"For Fuck's Sake," Friend offered helpfully and I nodded at her reply to my inquiry.

And I uttered those letters with varying degrees of feeling - from friendly exasperation to vicious rage.

  1. I awakened at 2AM, rolling over and calculating how much more time I could snuggle under covers.  It wasn't long.
  2. When attempting to open my Advil en route to the airport, I was unable to outsmart the child-proof cap and injured myself in the attempt.  I also failed, meaning my head and hand hurt. 
  3. I got lost on the way to the airport.  My home airport.  That I use frequently.  But who closes an interstate?!
  4. Upon finding the airport, I missed the turn for parking.  Meaning I circled again as the sun peeked above the horizon and the hour neared 4:15.
  5. As I lost my way, I ended up joining the security line late.  Behind ~40 middle school travelers embarking upon some sort of field trip.  
  6. I selected the wrong line for carry-on screening, watching men who had been behind me for the ID check speed through while I waited behind slowpokes.  (Said slowpokes were not part of the field trip group - they operated like a well-oiled, matching-shirted machine!)
  7. Upon arriving at the gate, my newly-purchased bottle of water was already too slippery to hold.  FFS, humidity!
  8. The colleague I was accompanying on the trip (as he was the important one for this particular case) checked in at the airport and therefore didn't have a seat on our over-sold flight.
  9. After getting all excited about not having to go at all, we had enough volunteers linger - hoping for more than a $400 voucher - and my colleague got a seat.
  10. "We have to go," I sighed, shoulders slumping as I followed him down the jet bridge.  "FFS," I offered mildly.
  11. Once boarded, we waited for fuel.  Did we not realize we'd need fuel beforehand?
  12. Once landed, we waited for someone to drive the jet bridge to us.  Did they not realize we were arriving on schedule?  Hello?  LGA?
  13. While I made it past security at our destination without having to jump through hoops, my colleague was not as smooth.  Which meant I had to go back to fetch him and jump through even more hoops. 
  14. We caught a cab easily, my last terrifying visit to the city having taught me where to hail one.  And I did - I hailed one!  But I hurt my hand trying to open the door.
  15. Feeling in need of a little perk, I texted a friend, expecting him to make me laugh.  He failed to make me laugh, but succeeded in hurting my feelings.  So I'm officially mad at and ignoring him.  He doesn't know this, but I do.
  16. A little offended and a lot impatient, we arrived at JFK and skirted a huge line of humanity to check in.  "They can't be waiting to clear security," I breathed, watching the mass of people snake around the check-in counters and out the door into the beautiful afternoon.  
  17. An hour later, I was convinced that it would ease at some point.  That we'd stop this slow shuffle forward and TSA would add more people or Delta would get organized in managing the lines and we'd all zip through!  
  18. An hour after that, I was near tears.  I hated the person managing the lines - how dare she talk to colleagues?!  Or go get water?!  Was she not aware of my misery?  Of how awful the impatience and sense of fairness was to me?  I wished bad things for her, I decided, glaring steadily.
  19. We were finally pulled out of line when our flight was called, joining the single line of people going through a single scanner!  One at a time!  FFS, JFK! Or TSA!  Or President Obama!  Or whoever did this to me!
  20. We finally arrived back home.  Only to wait 10 minutes (which felt like an eternity, honestly) for the jet bridge to reach the plane.  How hard is this, people?
FGS Items

- I wore a blue chiffon top over a slightly darker camisole and made so many friends!  I had men chatting with me all day, which was lovely.  The flight attendant on my first flight, the guy in front of me in line at JFK (with the delicious accent and quirky glasses), my seat mate on the flight back home.  Thank you, friendly men.

- I talked to my folks and things are OK at home.  Dad doesn't feel well and he's trying to like his new recliner but they keep taking it back to get new ones. (I didn't fully understand - I was tired and fighting traffic.)

- Much as I feel tempted to explore the city while actually outside a cab or when I'm not arriving and departing in the same day, I'm so pleased to be home.   I love being home.

- I love Delta cookies.  

- My hair, curled before dawn, stayed all pretty all day.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Plan of Attack

I was wandering down the court on which I reside this morning, indulging in wide yawns as I followed Chienne through the coolish early morning air.

"Oh, no," I said mildly when a yapping-dustmop-dog sprinted toward us when we passed one of the prettier lawns in the neighborhood.  I knew said yapping-dustmop-dog was restrained and rather enjoyed its jerk back when he reached the end of his cord.

I rarely meet dogs I don't like, but this one - and his smaller friend - are awful.  They're outright mean to my friendly Chienne and stupid-looking to boot.  But when the smaller friend joined the melee and was nipping at my hound while growling ferociously, I joined the battle and used my feet, arms and voice to try to defend my girl.

She fought reasonably effectively, short hair standing on end and teeth bared in the scariest growl I've heard her use.  Loose-yapping-dustmop-dog started to yipe rather than yap, nearly screaming in some mixture of rage and fear as its person joined me in trying to separate our canines.

"Wow," I said when it was over, leaning down to soothe Chienne while offering a number of glares at the trio standing in the neatly-manicured yard.  I don't remember what the woman said or how I replied - I do recall apologizing to Chienne as she panted, otherwise still as she attempted to keep track of the yapping-dustmop-dogs.

In other battles, I have arranged travel for my first interview in years.  I need to read up on some grad school topics I've not really used since 2002.  I should refresh my memory of interviewing tips - did I not write a post or two?

I've learned since my last interview experience that it's fine to spend some money.  I picked the flights that were the most convenient for my schedule, though they were massively costly.  I selected the top TripAdvisor hotel for the city - it wasn't overly expensive but it's nicer than the chain they suggested that's just near the office.  I'll enjoy a leisurely breakfast and perhaps take some photos if there's sufficient prettiness.  Then I'll go speak with some people about how wonderful I am.

I'm afraid, honestly.  Not of the interview, though I'm sure I'll be nervous.  But over what this decision could mean for my future.  Of how I want to balance family and career.  I'm not in a mental place where I feel capable of deciding this presently.  So I worry.

I've found that disruptions in my schedule can contribute to mental instability.  As I'm already feeling rather fragile, I looked at my plans - east coast x 2, Japan, Europe - all in the next 4 weeks, I freaked out a bit.

So I emailed Adam and suggested using some technology to allow me to participate without crossing the Pacific.  And while I could tell he wasn't particularly happy with my request, he agreed to my plan and is instead sending Sibling to Japan.

Sibling is thrilled.  I'm relieved.  So I'm working to disregard Adam's disappointment in me and feel good that I found a workable solution.  And I'll buy a guidebook for Amsterdam so that I know what to see and can look forward to Europe - a continent I'm much more confident visiting solo.

I find I struggle to think past that European trip in early-mid July.  I can plan days before it nearly down to the minute, but after that?  Nothing.

I had a dream last night that I was taking my family on vacation, but we were running miserably late.  As I was frantically trying to check us in, paging through stacks of documents, a man came and said it was now or never.

"But I'm not quite ready," I protested.  "5 minutes - I just need five minutes to settle and think!"  But he refused and climbed some steps to shut the doors while my parents and brother looked on with disappointment.  I choked on the feeling of failure, barely able to breathe, and kept attempting to find an alternate plan.

"I don't want to do this," I wept as I called Friend last week.  And she soothed and reasoned until I calmed.  But the distractions - the exquisite plans - help to distract from the encompassing sadness of losing a parent.  I just find I'm unable to have them last forever.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Live (lihood)

"I'm being courted," I told Adam yesterday.  "I rather like it."

He laughed at me, as he tends to do, and said he remembered his first recruitment call.  "It's flattering," he agreed.  "But send me the job description - I'll have a look for you."

I wanted him to beg me to stay.  To convince me that I'd soon be promoted and revered and cherished in my current company.  After all, one of the benefits of this role was the location - I could live here forever and be quite content.  I love my house.  My commute.  My office.  Colleagues.  Airport.

This is home.

I live here - sleep and dream, laugh and cry, work and walk.

It is not without problems.  My professional trajectory spiraled downward pretty rapidly - which apparently isn't the best before a potential reorganization.  And as I picture names being pasted on chess pieces that are casually strewn across a board with lofty yet unknown goals, I'll admit to look at this new opportunity with some longing.

I like to start over.  Just wipe everything clean - throw out the clutter.  And work like crazy to get past the learning curve, find people and places to love.  Explore and settle and find my balance again.

Perhaps I'd meet someone there though.  Be happier for longer and depressed less frequently.

"You'd be crazy not to jump at it," Adam said when we met again today and frowned when my face fell.

"OK," I nodded, knowing he's right.  It's an amazing job - several steps up from where I am now and you don't often get the opportunity to skip steps when these jobs are in such high demand.

"More money," Adam said, leaning forward to convince me.  "More power.  Great company with excellent benefits.  Your family situation..." He paused, attempting to be sympathetic yet struggling with his innate compulsion for honest opinion.  "It's going to change, Katie.  So you can't base everything on what's going on at home."

No, I wanted to say.  My dad could be OK.  The tumors are shrinking!  The chemo is working!  He is not leaving me yet.  He may not have to leave soon.

But Adam, as usual, is likely correct.  When looking at the reality of the situation, I likely shouldn't - especially from a mentor's perspective - discard an opportunity because of personal circumstances.

"You're free to go!" he continued.  "No children, single..ish?" I laughed at his raised eyebrow as I've texted him while waiting for dates at certain points.

"Single," I confirmed, shaking my head at him.

"You're young and smart.  Have too much money and are gaining maturity quickly.  You could do this - tell them you'll relocate and beg them for the job."

"I told them about my parents," I noted and watched him wince.  "I don't even know if I want it!" I cried and he cringed even more.  "Oh, shut up - I'm doing fine without you," I teased and he patted my head before leaving my office.

So I'm trying to get back to that moment - where I liked being courted.  Because now it's scary and full of pressure - one of those life decisions that represents a turning point.  Do I stay here and settle happily into middle management?

Or do I head east - to a different lakeside location - and spring upward, unsure of what happens if I fall?

"I just want everything to be the same as it was," I said softly.  With my group and my family and my life, boring as it once was.  And as everything shifts in search of a new normal, I feel sad.  Just gently sad.

And wait for the next travel date so I can embrace the changes rather than waiting here - where everything is perfectly comfortable and safe - and wait for it to all fall to pieces.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Gracious Goodness

"Don't Socra-tease me," I noted when a colleague peered at the color I'd selected for my toes.  And we chatted about our lives and work and relaxed into the massage chairs as tiny women scraped at our soles and filed our nails and wrapped our feet in bags filled with paraffin.

Pleased that it was Friday afternoon and lulled into a dazed state by the rubbing of my legs and ankles and massaging motion of the chair, I hesitantly agreed to a manicure even though I always ruin them.

"I've rubbed off polish before leaving the salon," I warned.  So they shellacked me.  French tips.  And I love them.  It makes me happy every time I glance at my hands.  And I've lately needed a bit of a perk nearly constantly.


2011 was not a great year professionally.  2012 appears to be better.

I'm nearing the end of my 'plan to avoid being fired' with near-perfect results.  I say near-perfect because I got a 92% on my oral exam for a new topic.

"Let's go," I said to Adam after he commented on the tension in the room after I'd arrived and closed the door behind me.  "I'm nervous.  But I'm ready.  So let's go," I repeated, staring at him with narrowed eyes, leaning forward in a battle-ready posture.

"Good," he declared after we'd walked through a haphazard set of questions.  "I'll never again say you don't know new topic."

And the pride I felt - the relief and happiness and justification in all the cramming I'd done (I seriously had notes and flashcards and highlighted texts) - was outrageously out of proportion to the actual event.


Friend came to visit again!  She brought pralines from ATL!  We looked at flowers and shopped and talked and cried and laughed and ate.

The underlying tension is that something is (well, could be) wrong with her abdomen.  

And that's all I'll say about a potential illness because I refuse.  It's not OK - she's not yet 40.  So, no.  No gallstones.  No pancreatic cancer.  No.  

I love her bunches though - she's just such an easy presence.  Wise.  Kind.  Wonderful.  So I'm ever so grateful that she's taken time to come see me.  Especially on a weekend where her paper had been accepted and I'd just passed my new-topic test!

(She also has a birthday coming up.  Which amuses me only because she continued to repeat "40 is not that old," to the commentators as I made her watch American Ninja Warrior with me.)


After kicking some tail at work - I'm really doing shockingly well after 18 months of wild inability to be more than partially effective - I took some time to come home.  I dreaded this visit as it would reveal the initial efficacy of Dad's chemotherapy.

"I don't have an alternate plan," I told a colleague worriedly.  "I don't know what we're going to do."

"It'll be OK," he soothed.  "You don't need another plan."

And he was blessedly correct.  The liver lesions as well as the pancreatic mass are shrinking.  The CT says we're doing well.  The blood counts indicate we can continue with treatment.  We seem to be buying some time.

The price of that time is suffering.  So we asked about new medications for Dad's persistent nausea.  Talked about how he feels so poorly that he does little but sleep and sit in his chair.  

And the CT revealed pulmonary emboli.  

"Emboli?" I asked when the nurse practitioner told us.  "How many are there?"  And I nodded, gripping Brother's hand when she said there were several in both lungs. 

But the cancer center worked some magic with their insurance company and acquired the blood thinning injections so Dad could do them himself.  And while he's tentative about jabbing a needle in his belly, he's able to do it.  (I can't even watch.) 

I keep praying he feels better.  It breaks my heart a little more each time he sighs and says "I think this is how I feel from now on - just crappy."


Mom's follow-up was completely positive.  We walked hand-in-hand back to radiation oncology and she beamed at the team who'd treated her twice daily for 5 days and indicated she was just fine.

"Has she joined a support group or anything?" a colleague asked me and I blinked in surprise.  

"No," I replied.  "She's better.  We're done.  No more of that."

But I decided to ask in the event that she might find it useful.  Prepared to be encouraging, I still nodded when she looked at me in surprised and indicated that she was better.  We were done.  No more of that.  

Because I am my mother's daughter.


I sped up the back roads that I'd taken years ago to get to high school.  I entered the building via a new entrance and breathed in the familiar smells before heading to the auditorium to watch the Ones at their annual dance recital.

I went alone - Dad was asleep, having been feeling particularly bad.  Mom was weeping - wanting to go with me but feeling too worried to leave Dad alone.  But I sat and watched, taking video of Little One as she grows into such an astounding girl.  I went to find her once she'd performed, rejoicing at her wide grin of welcome before she jumped up and tapped across the corridor to embrace me.  

I waited with the girls and their mother until it was Smallest's turn.  And I watched another kangaroo song and took more video and smiled proudly because she's just such a cutie.  

Then I brought them home with me so they could spend time with Grandma and Grandpa until it was time for Brother to fetch them.  When he didn't end up coming, I sighed and reminded myself that I'm far from perfect as well.  Mom loves having them around and they love being here so I won't complain.  It's lovely.  They're wonderful.  

Though even I tire of hearing my voice remind, "Gentle with Grandpa."


Tomorrow we return home without immediate plans to return to my parents.  I'm sure we'll visit soon, but it may be a week or three.  

Sir Sprout will make his return to his northerly stomping grounds, pending tomorrow's capture and imprisonment in his moving nemesis.  Chienne is growing better with traveling - she still hates it but is more resigned to trying to sleep through the trip as best she can.  

I'm eager to return to my bed and pillows and blankets.  My basement and first floor and bedrooms upstairs.  Multiple bathrooms and sidewalks and delivery options for dinners.  I miss it. 

(We're home, actually, having drafted but not published this post pre-trip.  Sprout and Chienne have explored their home and, having found it remained suitable, have eaten and rested and only offered me reproachful glares infrequently.)


And though I've no particular desire to leave it - I'm fond of the location and my company - the interview process with the competitive company is going along very easily and well.  I've been utterly sincere as I don't need the job.  And everyone seems utterly charmed so far.  (Which is a trick - I'm very much a love/hate sort once you get to know me.)

"Make sure you'd actually go there before you use it for leverage with your current people," Friend advised.  And I nodded because she's right - there's a chance they could say, "Great!  Good luck with that!"  So I've not said a word yet, taking calls when I'm home with my parents.  And hoping that the right answer remains obvious and that learning more and making new contacts is a bit more goodness. 

And aren't my flower pictures pretty?!  If you're lucky enough to know Friend and her Flickr account, hers are even better.