Wednesday, January 23, 2013


 "Aw," I cooed when I got to work on Monday.  I'd been off-campus on Friday so my birthday tulips had opened prettily and my balloons still floated happily above my desk.  "That's so sweet of you," I grinned at my colleagues when I went to give hugs.

The moral of my story - or one of them, perhaps - is that life works out.  It dips and twists and sometimes crashes and burns.  But it always manages to level out - bounce back - and leaves me stroking the petal of a tulip with the tip of my finger while considering its simple beauty.

"I'm glad you're on that team," my former partner said when I saw him on Monday, a departure from his initial dire warnings of killing my career.

"Me, too!" I cried, linking my arm with his and grinning when he squeezed me affectionately.  "I'm so happy."

"I don't care much about that," he teased and I sighed at him.  "But I do think we need someone smart and talented in that role.  It's good for the teams."

"Thanks," I offered.  "I'm glad you got our job," I continued sincerely.  "I wanted it - desperately, really - but it wasn't the right path for me.  And I think it may be the right path for you."

He shrugged and we both went quiet, thinking of the meeting we'd just left.

There was a project I'd championed for years - I think - no, I believe - that it's truly groundbreaking.  Elegant.  Meaningful.  A real weapon in the battle against disease.

And we're killing it.

"It's brilliant," I emphasized, leaning across the table in a tiny conference room and maintaining eye contact with the lead designer.  My heart broke when I noted the tears in his eyes but I continued to tell him what amazing work he'd done.

I looked at my former partner - the decision-maker in this hideous game - and his mouth twisted with momentary regret but he straightened in his chair and continued with discussions about resources and priorities and some activities that were high risk/high reward that we just couldn't support in the current climate.

I nodded because he's right.  We've reduced our force, asking talented employees to pack their belongings and leave.  Those are terrible decisions - ones that make my stomach ache - and I've tried to connect those people with links in my network and sag with regret when they must uproot their families to find work elsewhere.

I have not the strength to crush dreams.  I just don't.  I know it's best for business in some cases.  I understand the rationale and hurt for those men (for they're typically men in my world) who must decide and deliver those messages.  But it's not something I can do right now, even with the knowledge that the world eventually rights itself and balances.

Instead, I return to my support role - organize items and communicate strategy rather than participating in its formation.

And I smile at my tulips, silly as that sounds.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I have taken to decorating with lanterns.

"I love that lamp," I sighed when looking for new furniture for Mom.  Something about the curve of the  base.  The dangle of the light source.  The point of illumination in the darkness, protected by intersecting swoops of metal.

We left the store without said lamp - the store charged exorbitant fees for delivery - (of the sofa, not the lamp).  (The lamp can be carried.)  (It sits on a table - it's not exorbitantly heavy.)


It was one of my Christmas gifts - the pretty silver lamp that I didn't need but loved.  It sits perched on the table across the room, near the vase with my dying roses and new WalMart tulips.

On the opposite wall of my cozy living room stands a floor lamp.  Another lantern.  In a different finish that clearly does not match its companion lighting device.  This one I purchased - selecting it from amazon and piecing it together when it arrived, fishing the cord through the supporting pieces, screwing them together (righty tighty) and arranging it by my couch clad in a tan chenille.

They both glow this evening - as they do most evenings when Mom and I reside here - and it provides me some modicum of comfort.  The glow seeming softer and gentler on sleepless nights or grumpy mornings or hopeless evenings.

"You are so cute," Mom tells Sir Sprout and she's right.  He's such a pretty guy.  "I wish you weren't so weird," she follows up and I grin for the feline is spooky.  He is startled by most anything.  Runs from his own shadow.  Literally.  And rebukes any efforts to scoop him up to cuddle.

But - for now - Chienne snores on her corner of the chenille couch.  Sprout bats at Mom's yarn as she knits it into some odd creation.  And I plan my week, considering emails and arranging meetings.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


"Hello," I heard a voice call when I followed Mom into the small floral & gift shop.  "Welcome to my mess."

"Did someone say something?" Mom asked, for her hearing is terrible.  "Did you hear it?  Where'd it come from?"

"I don't know," I murmured, inching toward the door in order to reverse our journey and return to the car.

"I want to buy you flowers," Mom had insisted before we had dined at the Chinese restaurant next door.  When I said we could stop at WalMart on the way home (I'm very suburban), she insisted that we should do something more special on my birthday.  Flowers from a florist.

We both blinked at the piles of crap - scraps of fabric, balls of styrofoam, dried flowers and plastic blooms.

"I still have to clean up after Christmas," the proprietress offered cheerfully and we peered around glass shelves so heavily laden with stuff that they formed an impenetrable wall of sorts.

"Hello?" Mom offered carefully, taking careful steps around the overflowing boxes on the creaky floor while I watched, gathering my coat closer to me so that it didn't knock over the perilously stacked papers on the three card tables with overlapping corners.

I spared a moment to admire their defiance of gravity - no table had all four legs touching the floor and the tops nearly bowed under the weight of their burdens.

"It's Katie's birthday," Mom was explaining to the rather large woman seated in a different nook of the terrifying shop.  "She likes flowers."

The woman smiled and I took a moment to notice she was wearing only one shoe before obediently turning at her direction and squinting through the dirty glass of the cooler.

"Blue carnations, yellow carnations, red roses," she recited and Mom and I exchanged meaningful glances.  "I think there are some pink and white roses in the back there," she said and I shrugged helplessly.

"Roses," Mom decided and I offered that I'd prefer pink or white.  

"May I get them for you?" Mom offered when the woman rose - with no small amount of effort or noise - from her chair.  She refused though, moving slowly toward the cooler and emerging with 3 roses of each color.

We watched, making polite conversation that I mostly carried as Mom looked confused and kept whispering to me that she couldn't hear.

"Don't get old," the shop owner advised as she carefully removed thorns and removed dead petals from the elderly blooms.

"There's not a good alternative," I replied easily, wishing with futility that she would hurry in her task.  I was starting to feel claustrophobic.

I was unsure of the source of my discomfort though - while the environment was uncomfortable, perhaps belonging on Hoarders, it has become relatively common for me to feel breathless with panic or grief or this awful blank depression that sometimes settles over me.

We finally departed and I carried the flowers - wrapped in a sheet of yellow tissue paper stapled at the side - with me to the car.

"They're pretty," I told Mom with a smile.  "Thank you."

"They'll be dead tomorrow," she replied, looking concerned.

"Maybe," I decided, looking at the brown edges of the pale petals.  "But they're pretty today and we provide 30 minutes of company for a lonely lady in an awful shop.  So I think we did OK."

Age 33 was mostly misery - cancer diagnoses and treatments.  Professional failure.  Losing Daddy.  Working through grief remains as sharp as the memories that overtake my consciousness at times.

34 must be better.  Though the roses Mom bought me yesterday are definitely drooping, they make me smile each time I glance at them.