Monday, September 24, 2012

Goodness List, day 1

  1. I awakened early this morning, a Chienne cuddled against the small of my back.  I patted her, squinted at the clock and decided to get up even though it was barely 4:30.
  2. I did some work - thinking clearly and cleanly.  Making presentations often helps clarify projects in my mind.  Someone once told me that teachers had the best grasp of the material.  Not that I would ever (ever, ever) want to teach, but it's a fair point.
  3. "Oh, look how cute," I murmured, bending to fetch the black-skirt-with-pink-pattern that had fallen behind my drying rack downstairs.  I brushed the dust bunnies free of the hem, struggled into tights and tugged my newfound-treasure over my hips.  
  4. When complimented on my outfit, I grinned and offered that I found the skirt behind my dryer!  It's like new!  Except a little dusty!
  5. I learned something from a colleague with whom I've had a tense relationship.  She is a bit abrasive, but she's hospiced 3 family members to my 1 Daddy.  So she's being kind to me.  And I in return.  It was one of my reservations about taking this job so it's nice that we're peaceful.
  6. I replanted more of Dad's memorial plants.  I finally feel better about all (but 1) of them.  The baskets in which they arrived were (1) not draining properly and I was waterlogging my new flora and (2) sad.  I now have pretty pots shaped like giant tulip blossoms.  They're silly.  But doing an excellent job of guarding the corner of my desk.
  7. Oh, and I'm winning in my battle with the desk-stealing-nemesis.  (In all fairness, I stole the desk.  But he took it back!  And NEVER sits there!  So when he stopped by to introduce himself and ask about his stupid belongings, I sighed, walked 5 steps and pointed to the stuff obviously sitting just across the hall.  I may or may not have muttered 'idiot' under my breath when moving back to my new cubicle home.  He left shortly thereafter.  I believe this means I'm winning.  
  8. I went to lunch when invited today, sitting with my new team.  Adam walked by and waved - I lifted my hand, a little wistful over the easy camaraderie I shared with my former colleagues.  My new group manages a number of loosely-if-at-all-related projects so they don't have the 'all for one' mentality I used to enjoy.  But they're lovely women.  And I can perhaps contribute to building our sense of team.  
  9. I avoided dinner with my former team.  I had brunch with them yesterday and grow weary of saying good-bye to a team which disbanded some time ago.  Yes, I loved working with them.  Yes, I do miss them.  But no, I am not good at keeping in touch.  So let's just make a break and move on, yes?
  10. Instead, I finished some work (and felt proud for not procrastinating) and stopped at Qdoba.  And it was free queso day!  How lovely of Qdoba to give the gift of cheese dip!  They appreciate me. You know who I appreciate?  Qdoba.  With their cilantro and guacamole and free queso.  And friendly employees who are ever-so-efficient.  And consistently high-quality burritos.  
Now I'm exhausted.  I'm still sad.  And a little slow.  And when I looked up at my calendar to check the fiscal week, I saw the photo of my dad and my heart broke a little more.  Because I miss him.  A lot.  

But I'm really (really) trying (very hard) to find the positive.  And - unless you don't count #7 - I didn't even have to use the way the setting sunlight filtered through the red maple leaves as I drove home!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The disjointed, not OK post

I so rarely open my laptop.  Poor, old Nick comes unplugged and goes dead as he rests near the couch, forsaken in favor of iPad or work computer.

In addition, I am loathe to think.  Because life seems painful - new miseries just waiting to be acknowledged.

"Does it bother you?" Pretty Hair asked as we talked over wine after work one day.  I'd disclosed that I lost the promotion not terribly long before Dad died.  That some of my dwindling moments with him were spent weeping over professional crap.

"That he knew?  No.  I believe he knows now - that it's OK and that in the future it will be OK.  I just miss him - want to talk to him to make sure he's doing well in Heaven.  That he likes it there."  Then I crumbled my drink napkin - now sodden with tears - in my trembling hand.

Pretty Hair dabbed at her eyes as well before Sibling arrived, offering hugs and distracting photos of her Jersey condo.

"We did pretty well," Pretty Hair commented.  "I'm in Bern.  Sibling in NYC.  Other friend in LA.  Katie... here."  So I laughed and indicated I don't want to move.  I'm fine where I am.

I did, however, have to move my desk.  Adding insult to injury, someone had already claimed the cubicle I wanted by placing boxes-full-of-binders on the edge of the desk.  I'd moved them with some help from my new team, then apologized when I realized he'd wanted to sit there.

He insisted I move.

Which I guess is fair.  Not a big deal.  That I pretty much hate him is a response out of proportion with the situation.

That he emailed me to ask me to move again yesterday - after I'd relocated a week ago already - made me write a response that replied 'Fuck off, you stupid son of a bitch' to his 'Have an awesome day!' signature.  (I didn't send it.  But I look forward to being obviously bitchy when I do meet him.)

I must regroup.  Bounce back.  Find some sense of happiness and well-being.

But I'm failing miserably.

I sleep until I ache - head and muscles - from lack of use.  I keep buying books I don't finish.  I don't have to travel anymore so there's no break in the monotony.  There is just existing as the weather grows cooler.  Flip a switch from air conditioning to heat.  Revise documents and schedule redundant discussions.  And try to find some modicum of energy to pretend I care.

Sibling needs a place to stay right before her move so I was cleaning up clutter yesterday.  I found a bag, began to empty it, and found myself clutching Dad's Batman pajama pants to my chest, unable to breathe past the grief.

I am not OK.

I know there's a good chance I will be again, but the rush of memories keeps knocking me off balance. Holding his hand at the hospital and whispering that I was scared.  How he'd rest his forehead on my shoulder - exhausted - as we'd help him up to use the bathroom.  Holding Mom's hand as we tried to sleep the night that we lost him.

From my favorite spot on the couch - now littered with extra pillows and fluffy blankets as I rarely move from here - I can see an enlarged photo of Venice at sunrise.  The pastel hues of dawn with the ornate street lamps perched on cobblestones looking out over the lagoon.

I like to think I was happy then - and I was - but there were moments of inexplicable sadness there too. Perhaps I should just accept that I'm a depressed and depressing person.

I answered the phone Mom handed me last time I was home.  "Hello, Aunt," I said.

"I know she's not talking to me," Aunt replied of my mom and I giggled.  "She thinks I don't know that I pissed her off.  But I do know.  I was just trying to help."

"I know," I soothed.  "And I don't think she's angry.  Just tired.  We don't want grief counseling.  Or therapy.  Or suggestions on how to do this, really."

"But she said she's ready to die, Katie," Aunt argued and I shrugged, not mentioning that I'm not sure I disagree with that stance.

"But she's not hastening the process," I replied gently.  "We're not suicidal.  We're sad.  We pray and work and are trying to figure this out.  It's just really very hard right now."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Tale of the Not-So-Good Birthday

"Use this to score two points - or 3 if you're distant.
 Your next clue is there as if you had wished it!"

Per the request I'd received - in writing, no less - from my eldest niece, I developed a treasure hunt that rhymed - as did Smallest's on her recent 5th birthday - but that was "harder." 

And harder it was - it required the puzzle of riddles and obscure but clever hiding spots.  I worked diligently on that project and made the trek to my parents' house to attend an 8th birthday party. 

It started going wrong before I even arrived. 

Mom was ill and while it sounded like a stomach bug to me, I am now shocked from my previous view of health - the 'it'll be fine...' perspective - to the 'Oh, Dear Lord, this could be the end of it all' paranoia that invades oh-so-many of my thoughts.  So I fretted through the drive and coaxed her to take medicine and drink something and rest. 

And then I stood trembling in the hallway, miserably afraid.

The girls arrived just after 6PM, fresh from tumbling class.  Brother had placed a new bicycle on the front porch to greet Little One and he looked shaken and sick as well.  As they came in, he sat in Dad's recliner, leaning back and elevating his feet, neatly exposing the culmination of my treasure hunt with the Stuffies hiding under the chair. 

"Dammit," I muttered when Smallest One scampered over to cuddle her new turtle Stuffie when she saw it.  But I was struggling with a days-old headache and months-old worry.  Little One, sweetheart that she is, decided to tackle the treasure hunt straightaway as the end had just been ruined. 

We'd made it to the tire swing out back and encyclopedias downstairs and the dishwasher soap under the sink.  I left her there - on the floor of the kitchen - as the next clue lead to the recliner that had already been revealed. 

I was speaking softly to Mom as she lay curled in bed, asking if I could bring anything to her, when I heard Little One crying.  So I hurried back down the hall to find her utterly discouraged, unable to decipher the last clue and weeping as if her heart were broken. 

We finished the treasure hunt and I made pigs in blankets per her request.  Mom, unable to get out of bed, ignored Smallest when she demanded Grandma get up and make her pink milk and lay down with her!  Little One curled up quietly in her room, disappointed that Grandma, Aunt and Uncle missed her birthday party.  That the happy birthday song was a bit weak.  The decorations sparse.  The treasure hunt damnably difficult. 

And sometimes I suppose it goes that way. 

"How's work?" Brother asked as we sat together, looking at the photo-topped cake that required an odd-but-edible film atop the frosting. 

"Not great," I replied.

"Me, too," he agreed.  "What are you going to do about it?"

"Nothing," I replied, still staring at the cake that bore a photo of Little One amidst One Direction that I'd created myself. 

"Me neither," he offered.  I glanced up at him and nodded, watching him mimic the gesture. 

And when asked recently for a happy story - in a terribly sweet gesture, really - I blinked back tears.  Because I don't really remember being happy lately.  I cope.  Endure the moments where I must be awake.  Battle back from panic and despair. 

But happiness?  It seems like a distant memory, honestly. 

But at least it's almost bedtime again.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Welcome Home, Katie."

"Did I hear you were moving?" a colleague asked outside my office yesterday.  I glanced up, brushing dust from the front of my dress and tucking a lock of hair back in my ponytail.  Nodded and gestured to the recycle bin I was filling with unwanted papers.

"Congratulations on the new job," he offered and I raised my eyebrows while thanking him.  He grinned.  Shrugged.  "It's congratulations or sympathy - which do you want?"

"Neither?" I replied, gesturing him into a chair not covered with the rubble of my former routine.  "No need for more sympathy - thought it's terribly sweet, it's not really helpful.  And I guess congratulations are fine, though this doesn't feel right.  It's just the best choice in a bad situation, I suppose."

He offered his consoling felicitations once again and left me to my work.

It is perhaps not the best of times to clean one's former office when one is feeling somewhat devoid of hope or purpose.  Read: I threw most everything out.

Files and forms.  Notebooks and legal pads.  Folders and binders and receipts and messages scrawled on post-its.  It was time to move and everything-must-go and go quickly, disappearing into the giant blue recycle bin standing sentry at my door.  I didn't read though 99% of the material - I'd not recently used it and had no plans to need it again.  So indiscriminately into the bin it sailed.

Mostly finished, I looked around and sighed.  Then I straightened my spine from its habitual slump of late and picked up a couple of bags and made my way across campus.  I put magnets and photos and random bits of adorable around my new cubicle, located in a bright corner of a huge open space filled with people I don't know.

I returned home early and curled on the couch across the room from Mom.  We mindlessly watched television until 6:00 when I asked if she would accompany me to the office to finish moving my things.

"I hate this halfway point," I complained.  "Life is changing and this isn't what I wanted.  But since I can't stop it, I want to finish the process and adjust."

So in we went, dutifully packing pound upon pound of textbooks and computer peripherals and what was left in the one drawer I'd not cleaned that afternoon.  

We pushed carts across the parking lot, pausing to help each other balance across a couple of the rough spots.  Upon arriving at my new desk, we started to unload, piling certain items on freshly-cleaned shelves and in newly-opened drawers.  We tacked posters and the 8x10 photos I print after trips.  Mom placed a photo of Daddy on the front of an enclosed shelf, positioning a magnet in the corner so he could watch over me while I worked.

"I'll connect everything tomorrow," I decided, tossing monitor, keyboard and mouse into a haphazard pile before turning to watch Mom wipe her brow and nod.

"There's just this stuff left," she informed me and I wiped my brow and nodded in return.  I scooped it up and settled items in their places.

Until there were just two more.  I shook my head over a tiny notepad - an old friend had given it to me and I waited to feel nostalgic or wistful or something.   But I was blank and told Mom she could have thrown it away.

I glanced at the last notepad - a top-bound medium-sized white tablet with faint black lines onto which I'd jotted various items I should remember.  I tapped it on the table at the corner of my cubicle, looking around in growing panic at what had become of me.  No more flurry of global management floors for Katie - I'd rejected 2 offers to stay there in favor of coming here.  To strange people and projects.

Wait, I wanted to cry to the mostly empty room while Mom stacked books I'd decided to bring home.

This isn't how it was supposed to be.

Blinking back tears, I flipped back the pages of the notebook I still clutched and moved to toss it in a nearby recycle bin, pausing when I noticed the message printed neatly on the first sheet of paper.

I nodded at it, clutching it to my chest before placing it carefully on my desk and pressing my hand atop it for a moment of prayer - of thanksgiving and love and hope.

"May I tell you something sad?" I asked Mom about an hour after we returned home, sitting up from where I'd once again curled on the couch.  She nodded and I gulped back tears before starting to speak.

"I threw everything away today," I began.  "Old or new.  Used or not.  Into the recycling bin.  I just wanted to...  I don't know.  Not think about it.  Finish.

"So the only things I saved to write on were spiral notebooks from Barnes & Noble with the colored edges."

I paused to breathe and swallow against tears.  "Right before we left, I was feeling alone and afraid."  I confessed.  "I know I could have stayed where I was but I feel undervalued and ashamed of failing.  So I was looking around at the choice I made and almost couldn't breathe.  And then I found that white notepad.  You must have packed it," I told her and Mom shrugged.

"I flipped it closed right before we left and there was a note from Daddy.  It said 'Welcome Home, Katie.' in his handwriting."  I paused to let a sob escape before I took a breath and continued. "I think he sees us, Mom," I tried to conclude, no longer battling the inevitable tears.  "I think God's letting him tell us that he loves us and is still proud of me."

And then we cried together.

And then today, when I returned to my desk, I carefully removed that sheet from the notepad and pinned it to the wall of my new cubicle.  Smiled at it.  And got to work.

Monday, September 03, 2012


"Fine," is the word I have chosen to apply when people inquire after my well-being.  And I am - I sleep and eat and laugh at times.  I work when necessary - scooping my laptop from the floor and tapping out replies to emails.  Using Daddy's phone with its stronger signal to make conference calls that can't be postponed.

But everything feels different. 



My mom had friends when I was little - even before I was born, actually.  Two of them came to visit last week, bringing photos of a 1-year-old Katie in cars and trying to walk and playing with toys and snuggling with her mom.  My favorite, of course, is above - staring at my Daddy in delight.  (Which is now making me cry.  I miss him a whole lot.)

"What?" I asked from the back patio this morning.  Adam had called - as I'd requested - at 6AM on Labor Day to answer an urgent question.  He'd just returned to his hotel in Japan and we'd asked and answered questions about this mess of a project. 

"Are you sure this is what you want?  Moving into a more operational role?"

"Yes," I replied. 

"Because it's not too late.  I can get you out of it.  Or I can continue to push to make it happen.  But you were so good and this is so different..."

I nodded, staring out at Daddy's garages across the humid morning.  This is not what I wanted, I thought silently.  Given my way, my day today would look quite different.  Do I want to abandon global travel?  Work more on execution than owning the strategy?  Will I miss the attention? 

"I'm positive," I stated.  "It's time to do something different."

And different my life has been - I've lived with Mom and my parents' house for the last week.  Yesterday I used a majority of my mental power to help Smallest One make 2s.  She'd been doing them backward so we practiced and cheered and giggled while she grinned with pride.  We made it through the number 10 - quite an accomplishment. 

And perhaps I'll someday return to some sort of accomplishment of my own.