Friday, December 31, 2010

A Polar Bear Pool Party

(We're pretending I'm a polar bear again.)

At this time last year, I decided to have a pool party for all the animals in the zoo. My polar bear friends said it was silly - that I should send only a few invitations for others to visit our habitat.

"No," I insisted, paws clutching my blue ball to my white belly. "There's enough room! And this way nobody feels left out! Everyone is welcome to come to the pool party." Then I narrowed by polar bear eyes and growled menacingly and watched Adam and Best exchange resigned glances before telling me to go ahead.

And, for a while, it was wonderful. We splashed and frolicked and taught the walrus some polar bear games. The caribou came in herds and the wolves sprawled in the sunshine. We had seals and otters and whales attend and the seagulls and eagles jockeyed for the best spots in trees that surrounded our pool. And I was happy, even when dealing with problems, because everyone had a chance to play.

In the summer, the zookeepers came and said the pool party must end. Arranging my face in a polar bear pout, I crawled over to the pretty pool in the center of our habitat and, with a glance at Adam for support, cleared my throat and stood on my hind legs.

"Attention," I requested and waited until everyone - the otters and caribou, eagles and seals, wolves and walrus - looked at me affectionately. I smiled weakly, for I believe in giving animals gifts so they'll like me and had never tried to rescind a present before, and tried to explain.

"The zookeepers feel there are potential problems with our parties," I noted and watched the walrus frown. "Um, apparently we might fight with each other. Or I guess someone might drown. Or get hit in the head with a ball when we play Bounce. So they say we have to stop."

And there was a great roar of protest - squawks and growls and squeaks and pawing the ground angrily. I tried to calm them, wringing my paws fretfully, and looked to Adam for help.

"I will speak to the zookeepers," he said loudly and the herd of miscellaneous animals quieted to an uneasy murmur. So Adam and the walrus and a wolf went to the zookeepers and they spoke at length.

"You may have until the end of the year," a zookeeper told us when she visited our habitat, standing on a large rock to look down upon the herd. "But our concerns are valid and we will not grant additional waivers. Is that understood?"

She nodded when everyone cheered, animals returning to the sparkling water and bright sunshine and thinking the end of December was far away indeed. And if the zookeepers had caved once, they likely would do so again. So we splash today and worry tomorrow! Polar bear punch (you know, the fizzy kind with rainbow sherbet?) for everyone!

It is now December 31 and while I should be planning my New Year's Eve kiss (polar bears rub noses, I think - human Katie has no plans whatsoever), I am instead dealing with intense anger from my zoo friends.

I dutifully painted a sign a week ago, tracing letters to read 'Party Ends December 31. I'm sorry.' And I put it at the edge of the water, arranging it carefully so that it was clearly visible to all who continued to splash in our pool and laze under our heat lamps. I saw the caribou glance at it and whisper among themselves. The eagle narrowed his regal eyes. The wolves growled and knocked it down, but I apologized and told them I understood but the zookeepers wouldn't budge. And I righted the sign and patted it sympathetically, worried about the building displeasure from my former friends.

"Just a few more months?" I asked the zookeepers. "Because everyone's so angry?"

"No," they replied simply. "It's risky and wrong. You should never have done this at all. And it ends now. In fact," they continued, unmoved by my polar bear tears, "put up more signs so everyone is fully aware."

So I littered the edge of the pool with notices, my snout facing the ground as I hung my head against the insults and complaints. I winced as the animals glared. Nodded as they complained. Tried to explain that the zookeepers wouldn't budge.

"We," they cried, "outnumber the zookeepers! We're the reason people come here! To admire our bodies and behavior - because we're so pretty and interesting and important and cool!"

"I know," I offered earnestly. "I do. But the zookeepers have guns. And they've said we can obey or they will kill me - leaving a heap of broken fur and flesh and fluids. And I don't want to die!"

They glared at me and began to talk among themselves. I heard snippets of conversation - how they'd tell Adam I was a terrible bear. How not having pool parties would ruin everything. How I should have done better or more in some unspecified way so that this catastrophic event did not occur. And I am swamped with guilt and misery as they sneer and complain and tattle on me.

"I'm a good bear," I told PrettyHair when she wandered over to sit with me while I hid in a corner of the cave. "I try very hard and do impressive work and I was trying to be friendly when I invited everyone! It's not my fault the zookeepers said no. But everyone is mean to me - disappointed in me - and that's the opposite of what I wanted." And I wrap my furry arms around my ball protectively, resting my head on it in a defeated slump.

She straightened her pretty pink bow and patted me with her paw. "It's a bump in the iceberg," she offered. "It does suck but there was a lot of good that came from having everyone at our pool. So think of the good parts and just do the best you can through the end. Because you are a good bear."

I nodded, accepting the pat on the head but remained in my spot, curled sadly as I watched the animals depart angrily, making plans against me. It's better than being shot, I decided, but still not fun.

So feel free to pat my polar bear head if you'd like. Because I'm sad.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Observations on...

An Evening

"Oops," I giggled when the flash went off, easily startled in my tipsy state. "Hold on," I instructed Doug, frowning with great focus and bracing my camera to still the slight tremble of my hand. "Oh," I sighed when I glanced at the small screen. "I always blur nighttime photos."

"It could have something to do with the mojito," he suggested and I turned to see him smile and nodded my happy agreement. "Did the one before dinner look blurred?" he asked and I giggled again without answering.

My favorite photo of the evening - and the only one nondescript enough to share on my blog, actually - is that unexpected one. With the squiggles of light and reflections of salty slush on his windows. It's somehow lovely and interesting.

Oh, the observations are as follows:
  • There is no good (public) way to pull up a stocking that has lost its grip on my thigh! It was embarrassing. Doug was utterly blase about the whole thing when I had to lift my skirt under the table and rearrange my hosiery. I apologized all over myself and ordered a drink.
  • I enjoy - a lot, actually - arguing with him. He teased me about rivers and screwdrivers and I pointed out that making multiple left turns in a row was likely the most difficult route to get to a parking lot. We've reached the 'comfortable teasing' phase.
  • He managed to find guacamole. He's willingness to indulge my avocado addition is impossibly adorable.
  • I like compliments on how pretty I look. I was too tipsy to remember if he called me wonderful or beautiful or something else, but it was much more flattering than "only slightly OK."
  • I still feel like I'm playing dress-up when I wear red lipstick.
  • I used the In-Styler that my parents got me for Christmas. I did not believe in the device before, but it's kind of delightful. My hair had body and curl while being very shiny.
  • "What's the difference between indubitably and undoubtedly?" I asked Doug and he shrugged. I just looked it up (making this an ideal transition to my next part) - there isn't one. Indubitably is 'too evident to be doubted.' Mental note: use 'indubitably' more.

A Morning

The snow is melting, creating a dripping, slushy version of a winter wonderland. I find I'm much more content to take long walks on gloomy days - Chienne can stop and sniff. In the bright sunshine, I tend to squint and hurry her along. But as I paused by various paths and later dressed and went to work, I had additional observations.
  • Do I not seem like the type of person who should have a kinky preference or two? I don't, but I have this feeling that I should discover at least one.
  • There's something gloomy about walking past a cheeseburger lying in a parking lot. Once part of a Happy Meal, it later rested - sodden and sad - on a rain-soaked parking lot with a single bite taken from the edge.
  • I once dropped a red slushy on my way back from the ice cream shop. My grandpa went to get me another one when I began to cry with shock and horror.
  • I spend less time in hospitals than I did as an academic. But I still pray for anyone who rolls past me, pausing in conversation or redirecting my thoughts for a moment as my heels click down the tiled corridors.
  • I have great fondness for flowers that aren't flowers. I realized I have flats with fabric flowers on the toes, fabric flower headbands and rings with flower themes. I also favor floral scents.
  • Napping on clean sheets is one of my most favorite of passtimes.
  • Exchanging email with a new man with an excellent vocabulary is another. (Winnowing, noetic, Quebecois...I love new words.)
  • While I didn't mind working for a bit today, I am thoroughly enjoying being lazy this week. Sleep and cleaning and cooking and just sort of daydreaming is a fantastic way to end 2010.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Well-Behaved Women

"That's not nice," I told Smallest One when she perched on my lap and told me about her evening. "Would you like it if someone pinched you?"

"Eli didn't pinch me," she explained, looking exhausted by my inability to understand a simple story. "I pinched Eli."

"Yes," I replied, unsuccessfully attempting to hide a smile. "But we don't pinch boys. It's not polite."

"He wouldn't help us," she told me, scrunching her face into a frown. "So I pinched him." I opened my mouth, considered my next statement and closed my mouth again. Then I shrugged and told her I understood.

But I did not pinch Doug when he called for an impromptu evening out. Instead, I was flattered he thought of me and took the hour he'd offered to shower and dress and curl my hair. I applied makeup (lipstick instead of lip gloss which never happens). And I scampered to open the door in my pointy-toe heels and adjusted the pretty silver belt over my little black dress and smiled in greeting.

When he suggested that I might be overdressed, I turned to look at him and blinked down at my date-like outfit. After confirming that I should change, I ran upstairs and put on jeans and began to giggle. When he suggested it was icy and I might slip in my heels, I exchanged them for adorable flats, tugged on a casual jacket and followed him out the door for a truly pleasant evening with a man I enjoy. I didn't even pinch him when he argued with me over squirrels versus chipmunks on Christmas displays. ("They have bushy tails!" I cried in protest.)

Chienne saw a bulldog friend when we went outside to walk today and greeted him with great enthusiasm. I tried to chat with his grandmother while intermittently scolding my dog.

"We're struggling," I told her, catching myself before I fell down on the ice. "She keeps going in people's yards and pulling on me. And now she's wrestling poor Rover."

I shrugged and almost fell down again when she said that was fine. She must not have liked when he sniffed at her.

"That," I replied, tugging at my leash, "is not excuse for being mean. Stop being mean!"

I am not mean to Will when he insists upon being a busy bunny. I do not demand that he pick a day and time to get together. Or send email promptly. Or to stop ignoring me in general! No, I imagine him with a twitching nose and floppy gray ears and smile at the mental cuteness. It's fine to hop around casually, even if it does hurt my plan-oriented brain a little. Instead, I force myself to be easy-going and when that gets difficult, I call him a silly rabbit. And go on about my life, interested (but not obsessed) in what might happen next. I like bunnies.

"And you'll actually do it?" I asked Adam, hoping I didn't get scolded, but sometimes he's also a bit of a busy bunny and forgets to execute on plans. "Because I'm happy to do it for you."

He rolled his eyes and refused, making me roll my eyes and pout in return. But when - 6 weeks later - he asked me to go ahead and take care of said 'it'? I gritted my teeth and took deep breaths.

And reminded myself to be nice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1 Perfect Day

I got up after midnight and wandered downstairs, smiling at the Christmas tree and curling up on the loveseat to check email. I went back upstairs and rearranged mounds of pillows before snuggling in and sleeping again.

I woke up and came downstairs to make coffee. I absently watched the news while I sipped and read blogs that were updated overnight. When it was light outside, Chienne came down and wagged her tail in a happy greeting.

"Kisses," I requested and smiled when she touched my cheek with her tongue. "Love you," I told her and patted her back before she finding a spot on the sectional across the room. I finished my coffee and clipped on her leash before we braved the cold wind and walked around the neighborhood. I picked up mail before we came inside and paid bills online, feeling lazy and content as I realized I still have enough income, even with Christmas splurges.

I started laundry and answered a smattering of work email, checking my to-do list and smiling when I realized there's not a thing that requires attention today. Tomorrow is soon enough.

"So," I said to my best (and canine) friend. "I think I want soup." She did not respond, so I asked my laptop what soup I should make and decided upon a spicy sausage lentil before writing a list. I came across a chicken and noodle dish while I was browsing and had a brief internal debate before deciding to make both.

A quick trip to the store - uncrowded and uncluttered - yielded a satisfying assortment of ingredients and I unloaded on kitchen counters before removing two large pots from the cupboard. I chopped vegetables, delighting in the peeling of carrots and wrinkling my nose over the raw onion and garlic. I browned sausage and brought chicken stock to a simmer. When the house began to smell suitably yummy, I went downstairs to move laundry around and fetch the Christmas storage devices.

After dumping noodles into my check and poking at them with a spoon, I shrugged philosophically and undecked my tree - pulling ornaments from branches and carefully wrapping them into their box. I need to disassemble my tree and put away my dishes and assorted ceramic pretties. But then the house can get set to rights once again, establishing a beloved routine for the new year.

The soup is fantastic, though the vegetables weren't completely cooked and I did use the whole bag of lentils. An extra half cup didn't seem like that much until the little guys expanded. And the chicken and noodles were perfection in a dish. There's either a wide tolerance for error or I'm a culinary genius.

And I'm going to begin drafting the Story of 2010 Dating with a calm, cool evening in my nice, clean house in front of a warm, happy fire. Happiness abounds.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas: Continuous Evolution

"How much is there?" I asked, resigned to having the discussion and acknowledging it was good to be prepared even though there's no urgency to it.

"$600,000 in stocks," Mom replied as we drove home from the credit union. "Another $100,000 in our bank accounts. Life insurance should be $200,000. Then there's the house and cars - everything's paid for, but you know that."

"And everything should be split between the girls?" I confirmed, mentally filing information so I could get things done should something happen.

"I'd like for them to both go to school," Mom said. "But everything goes to you so it's really your decision."

I nodded, thinking of how lost I'd felt when Grandma died. How it was probably best that Mom was putting paperwork in order so I could just act without too much thought.

We had taken a family picture in the morning before opening gifts. Mom and her sister, Aunt. Their respective husbands and both sets of two children. The cousins' husbands and their one child each. Brother, his girlfriend, the Ones. And me.

Little One requested the photo, leaving Uncle to perch is camera on the shelves at one end of the living room and the rest of us to cluster around Dad's recliner and giggle as we squished together to fit in the frame. I smiled at the images that appeared once we were done - the jumble of colors and shapes and smiles that made up our casual portrait. How I hope the four children seated on the floor at the front of the picture remembered laughter and love from their early Christmases.

In the afternoon, before I made the drive north, we went to the bank to fill out forms, adding my name to my parents' accounts and fetching power of attorney forms to review. I dutifully listened and handed over my identification and signed and dated forms. I cringed when I thought of floral arrangements and caskets despite myself, of standing next to Brother and explaining what had happened to the Ones.

"Your ring is pretty," Smallest One said before her nap yesterday. She asked where I'd gotten it after I thanked her.

"It was my grandma's," I told her. "No," I smiled when she turned her head to look at Mom. "Your grandma's mom was my grandma."

"Where is she?" Smallest One asked, reaching to touch the small diamond on my right hand.

"She's in Heaven, sweetheart," I replied, glancing at Mom and reaching for her hand to squeeze in comfort.

"Oh," Smallest One said, curling closer to her grandmother and watching me solemnly. "Does she like being in Heaven?"

When I did get back home and unpacked my car, I searched through old photos until I found the one I wanted. I'd asked that we take it and Uncle had set us up in front of the house on a summer day. Grandma and Mom and Dad, Aunt, Uncle and Uncle's mother. Brother and Cousins and me. Huddled together, arms hugging or linked, a moment of laughter and love before the dynamic changed.

"I'll be 32 on January 18," I reminded Aunt as I tucked my hand in hers and rested my head on her shoulder. We'd just been talking about how the children were getting so big - talking and playing and making me wonder exactly how long it had been since they were wailing babies, leaving us to spend Christmas-past rocking and patting and burping instead of watching them run around and play complicated games.

"I know," Aunt replied, turning her head to kiss the top of mine. And I took comfort from that moment, hugged my parents a little too long before beginning my drive and hoped things didn't change too quickly. While I doubt I'll ever be ready, I know it's not time yet.


"Get out of here," Smallest One demanded as Chienne and I prepared for a long winter's nap in her bedroom. "This is my room and I want Grandma."

"Sweetheart," I replied, "the sleeping situation is complicated. You can stay in here with me or in Grandma's room with her or in Little One's room with her. But once we start shifting people, everything gets confusing."

"I will hit you," she replied and I laughed, triggering an argument that I completely lost with a 3 year old child. I ended up on the couch while she and Grandma watched Dora in her room. The girls tend to get what they want.

Christmas was lovely. I got up early and thought my thoughts until Mom and Dad wandered down the hall, one going to make coffee while the other fetched the newspaper from our cubby across the street. My variation on the monkey bread recipe worked nicely and I opened two presents that Dad and I then assembled - companionably handing each other pieces of wood and searching for the proper hardware in the tiny plastic bag. Chienne then had steps for an easier climb on beds and furniture. (She is suspicious of the steps, however, and more likely to knock them over when she hops up as she always had.)

Brother and I went to fetch the girls around 9, making the snowy drive up the hill in my Jeep until they climbed in, clad in snowflake pajamas and full of stories about makeovers and tents. I admired glitter on tiny cheeks and carefully made my way back down the hill.

I carried Little One into the house, setting her down so she could run to her grandma and moving aside to take off my boots as Smallest One entered in Brother's arms to stare wide-eyed at the rocking horse in the center of the room. I have shaken my tail with Mickey and danced with Dora. Made necklaces with beads, farm animals with Moon Dough, had fun with the Play-doh factory and helped with a half-dozen Magic Fabric creatures. We've played Who Is It? and Red Rover and Memory games. Done puzzles, made potholders and snowboarded on Brother's Wii. There are makeovers and new movies and naps with pillow pets.

"This is a tremendous amount of merchandise," I told Mom as I tucked my legs underneath me to avoid the mounds of boxes and bags of wrapping paper and miscellaneous packaging. Chienne was shredding a cheap tennis ball (as is her custom) and perking up at the sound of new squeaky toys. The girls' demands for more were eventually unmet as the unwrapped gifts dwindled in the face of piles of new toys. We've cleaned up now - the EasyBake oven put away even as battery-operated hamsters roll up and down the hall in their plastic orbs.

Oh, speaking of chasing down halls!

Dad's sister and her husband came for Christmas dinner. It was pleasant enough - they're unimpressed by my educational pedigree and current professional role (which is irritating, but whatever) but like to talk of herbal remedies and magnet power (which leaves me far more amused than impressed but, again, whatever).

Smallest One had not taken a nap and was being a bit of a brat. I was curled on the loveseat with Little One, watching Curious George, and Smallest did something naughty and Aunt Dad's Sister leaped off the couch and scooped her up in one angry motion, leaving the rest of us slack-jawed with surprise. Smallest One was having none of it, throwing a tantrum that actually did impress me while I waited to see which of my parents would put a stop to the display of adult dominance. Neither did but we all frowned as Smallest One began to cry. She ran to her grandpa upon escaping from his sister and I couldn't resist a glare when Aunt Dad's Sister looked proud. Then again, she's the only one I've seen win an argument with Smallest One.

My parents and I went shopping, picking up wrapping paper and bows for next year. We had pizza and chatted about how Little One was like her Aunt Katie - all focus and easily-hurt feelings and quiet - and Smallest One like her father - social and charming but headstrong and wickedly tempermental.

Aunt, Uncle and cousins will arrive this morning for one last round of gifts and food. My car is already packed - much as I enjoy the laughter and cuddles, winning games and losing arguments, I'm eager to return to routine. Quiet naps and reading (and working) by the fire and petting a stripey cat instead of the pale orange one that resides downstairs.

Until I return, merry & happy & joyful to you and yours.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Card on Christmas Eve

All of the elements are in place.

I sang along with carols on my drive south, car loaded as if it were a sleigh with presents piled high, through the snow as it fell softly but stubbornly throughout the morning.

I arrived to hugs and kisses and cookies, picking through the ubiquitous tins of treats until I found a few that I wanted and grinning at the glass of milk Mom poured as I made my selections. I giggled at the tree, brightly lit and heavily laden with ornaments and the gaily wrapped gifts scattered liberally around it.

We prepared the living room for the Ones, arranging a rocking horse and Dancing Mickey, baby and stroller, wrapped games for Nintendo DSes just like Santa would have left them. I filled stockings while Mom affixed the last of the bows and ribbons and Dad went out to sweep the porch and front walk. All is lovely and sweet, festive and cheerful.

Until you rest a moment and begin to look more closely.

I looked up from the ground meat I was browning and sighed. I'd called Brother for dinner and he ascended from the basement where he'd spent the day with his live-in girlfriend. Mom and Dad were searching for salsa to go with our nachos and Brother stormed back downstairs when Dad accused him of taking said salsa from said refrigerator and hiding it downstairs.

Mom began to scold Dad - something about how he's always critical (which is true, but hardly a new development) and I shook my head before scooping seasoned beef into a serving dish and nabbing the shredded cheese from the counter.

After placing both on the table, I skirted the parental argument in the small kitchen and made my way downstairs to find Brother, face wet with tears. I sighed and cocked my head at him, simultaneously sympathetic and suspicious. We are a manipulative group and our melodramatic tendencies know few bounds when it comes to winning arguments.

"Sit," I demanded when he started to rant about how Dad always put him down and reminded him of mistakes and was awful and horrible and life was naught but misery. "Sit," I repeated over and over, patting the step beside me until he finally stopped his monologue and listened.

"Brother," I said, being gentle but firm, "you are depressed. And having been depressed much of my adult life, I can understand very well that you feel attacked and unloved and as if you're in this dark hole." I looked around the dimly lit basement and winced. "Figuratively as well as literally, I guess," I added.

"Daddy is negative - you know that. It doesn't mean he doesn't love you or isn't proud or anything, really, except that he likes to talk and notices everything that others do wrong. And he's always pointed it out, just as he always gets angry and defensive if you try to correct him. And you can't change that. You can change how you react to it though. You can blow it off or walk away but it's pointless to torture yourself with it like this."

He didn't really hear me - maybe he can't right now. So I had dinner (the salsa was in the cupboard) with my parents and after Dad retired to the living room, Brother emerged again and took food downstairs. In the interim, I'd discussed the situation with my parents - noted areas where neither of them were right nor particularly wrong. Everyone's just different and acting as if behavior is novel or shocking is really a bit silly. Even I - playing the role of the absentee daughter - can pick up on patterns. Or perhaps distance has made that easier...

When Brother brought his plate back, Mom and I were putting together a breakfast casserole for tomorrow, which meant I was browning more ground meat. I finished my sausage and sprinkled it over the torn slices of bread and watched as he went outside to smoke. I teased him when he came back in and asked a silly question and thrilled to the grin that appeared in response. For even as we're melodramatic, we're a giggly sort on Mom's side and I enjoy the way our eyes almost disappear as our cheeks scrunch up in laughter.

He stayed in the tiny kitchen and frosted the pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing. I finished my casserole and began supervising the monkey bread preparation. Growing bored, I joined Dad in the living room and walked over to kiss his whiskered cheek when he asked if he was still in trouble.

"You could be nicer," I told him after I returned to my spot on the couch and curled into the corner. "But he could be less sensitive."

"It is my house," Dad said, pouting a bit and I smiled again and nodded my agreement.

"Go, Team Dad," I offered and was pleased when he returned my grin.

The snow continues to fall and my hands smell of apples from the pie I helped make. The refrigerator now contains the salsa which incites battles alongside leftovers and dishes waiting to be baked. The girls come tomorrow and I'll pray for a lack of arguments. It is a miraculous holiday, is it not?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

After Midnight

I try to predict the content while I listen to the disclaimer, eyes closed and willing my brain to lapse into unconsciousness.

"Weight loss," I murmur sometimes as I snuggle deeper into the pillow. "Vacuum cleaners. Mattresses. Make up and skin care. Investment opportunities! Hair removal. Your child writes a dissertation before age 2."

"I want it to be," I paused to think while curled next to Doug on my loveseat. "Easy." And there is an obvious value proposition - he's so sweet and attentive; I feel comfortable with him - even when moody or without make-up; We're honest and open and predictable.

But, at the risk of sounding a total ninny (yes, ninny), what's missing are the butterflies and scampering around the house making sure my lip gloss is just right and my hair curled properly, the way my stomach flips and brain floats in a happy sea of neurochemicals before he leans to kiss me.

"Did you watch Felicity?" I asked him, for the DVD was paused on my television. "I've been watching from the beginning, trying to sort myself out. I'm at graduation now."

"It was all Ben and Noel," I explained. "Did she want Noel - who was sweet and solid and stable - or Ben - who was sexy drama and endless problems and this compelling excitement? You're Noel," I concluded, for I do like analogies.

Yet there is no real choice for me. There is no Ben in my current story, for Will could not have disappeared more effectively had he stood in my kitchen and said "Abracadabra!" with suitable flourish and, after a dramatic poof of smoke, left only a small gray bunny where he'd once stood. (I would name the bunny Will, of course, and try to protect him from Sprout. Sprout would so try to kill poor bunny Will.) And who knows? Perhaps with an "Alakazam!" he will reappear. Human Will could certainly better defend himself against my stripey cat.

And this ease for which I wish would be if I wanted to tackle Doug with kisses or if Will had returned a portion of my flustered infatuation. But isn't that the problem with the youth of America? That we expect all to be obvious and easy and fun?

"Hello," I greeted two visitors yesterday. I smiled as they entered my office, returned their firm handshakes and eager smiles, and made a gesture that they should sit. I nodded as they earnestly explained their roles and responsibilities and began to ask questions.

We chatted for about an hour. I turned my monitor and showed them presentations and considered their questions and watched as they took notes in college-ruled notebooks. They're so young, making me sigh as they got up to leave. And given that I wanted to ask if they brought coats and boots and mittens, to ask if they needed help bundling up, perhaps I'm not as much part of "America's youth" as I'd like to believe.

I am nearly 32. I've been heartbroken. I've dated. I've worked and learned and traveled. I should be sensible and realistic and, I don't know, mature?

Yet I want to feel giddy. To roll over in the middle of the night and catch my breath because the man beside me is, well, breathtaking. Or, if that can't happen, to roll over and find the empty space that might someday be occupied with someone right. Because if I know anything, it's how to be alone.

I sit in my living room sometimes when I can't get back to sleep. When the infomercials are too optimistic - when the deals are too good and the performance too amazing - I descend the stairs and sit in the quiet darkness and stare at the Christmas tree in my kitchen. I smile sometimes because I worried even as a child - if I'd have good friends or do well in spelling or remembered to feed my goldfish or would ever learn to do a cartwheel. (I would not.)

But, at Christmastime, I could look at the lights hanging outside my bedroom window. I could wonder what presents waited under the tree. What surprises might occur.

"Hey," I greeted Doug when he first arrived yesterday night. "Come in! And hang on - I'm talking to my dad." And I returned to the phone and promised I would drive carefully and would see him soon for cookies and presents and dinners and playtime with the Ones.

And, every night, when the exciting new products give way to the earliest of the news broadcasts, I climb the stairs and go back to sleep. And wonder with a mixture of dismay and amusement what - or who - comes next.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"Do you need a gift receipt?" she asked and I looked at my items on the counter and cocked my head at her. She glanced down at the cat litter and toilet paper, bottled water and laundry detergent and shrugged.

"No. Thanks," I finally said and returned her holiday wishes before pushing my red cart toward my black Jeep. Given that my gifts are wrapped and packed in boxes and bags, my shopping trips are now for essential items and not whimsical gifts. I didn't send Christmas cards, but I never do. I am enjoying mint mochas and random treats at work.

The pre-holiday lull has extended to the office. Banks of lights remained extinguished today and there was a general hush as we glanced around to see who'd left early to head home and watched with vague curiosity as others checked flights through Europe.

"Friday," I replied when various colleagues asked about my trip to my parents' house. "Then I'll be back on Tuesday, I think. It'll be a short trip this year - the house is kind of crowded with Brother and his girlfriend and the Ones." But I like the shift - I've whittled my email down to less than 10 messages. My to-do list is getting done. I feel rather industrious as I work while others take vacation and bustle around the building happily.

I've grown used to waddling across icy patches and grinning over paw prints in the snow. I have gloves in all my coat pockets and scarves scattered about. And if I'm not blissful, I'm quietly content.


I'm mostly quietly content.

"What if," I asked Doug once, "being alone is my ground state? My electrons are currently excited - I'm dating and thinking of people and trying to figure out how I might look in a couple. But my atomic structure hasn't changed. Eventually, it seems like those electrons are going to lose energy - return to their original orbitals."

Which will result in an emission of blog posts.

But is currently making me sad.

A little.

But mostly? I'm quietly content.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Done & To Do

I love lists like this almost as much as 100 things posts. But these are much easier to complete when one is bored and lazy on a Sunday. I saw this at PhD-baby (who is younger than I am).

Bold things you've done. Italicize things you absolutely need to do - Prioritized list at the bottom.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with dolphins (I do like dolphins - perhaps I'd like to swim with them.)
03. Climbed a mountain (I've climbed a tall hill - it was hard.)
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone (If we're prioritizing the 'to do' list, this one ranks high.)
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree (I actually did this while climbing the tall hill!)
10. Bungee jumped (No, no, no.)
11. Visited Paris (Oui, oui, oui)
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea (From the shore, yes.)
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise (I did this my first year in Industry - it was overrated and I was sick with exhaustion and Very Cranky.)
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa (Need to get to Italy.)
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg (Need to get to an iceberg.)
19. Slept under the stars (Yeah - not much of a camper.)
20. Changed a baby’s diaper (Again with the overrated. But I liked to sing when the girls were small - neither liked diaper changes but singing helped a lot.)
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon (Despite my fear of heights, I'm tempted to do this.)
22. Watched a meteor shower (I've always meant to do this, but sleep through them.)
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope (Uncle would bring his to my parents' house as we lived in the country, well away from any light pollution. We saw Venus once and I thought it was impossibly cool.)
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment (With Aunt and Mom in church. I don't think God minded.)
27. Had a food fight (Grade school. Overrated.)
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger (Online, not in person. But still.)
30. Had a snowball fight (I grew up and currently live in the Midwest. Of course I've thrown snow at people - it's everywhere for a large part of the year.)
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can (I hurt my voice when yelling at kids who were throwing rocks at ducks. I like ducks.)
32. Held a lamb (The lamb came to school when I was little. I loved that lamb and still refuse to eat her or her friends.)
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster (With Friend. Super-scary.)
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking (I don't necessarily need to do this, exactly, but I'd like to be confident enough to pull it off someday.)
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment (I'm happy about my life a lot.)
39. Had two hard drives for your computer (I've had two hard drives for more than one computer at the same time.)
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk (Yes, but I wasn't thrilled about it.)
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe (I adore Europe but have no desire to backpack. Nice hotels, excellent meals and expense reports, please.)
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Taken a midnight walk on the beach (This is not overrated - highly recommended.)
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland (Want. Want, want, want.)
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them (I'm half-cheating since I do this at conferences and meetings all the time. But we're not exactly strangers - we're there for the same reason - but we don't know each other before dinner.)
54. Visited Japan (Twice! Going back in 2011!)
55. Milked a cow (I am not good at it.)
56. Alphabetized your CDs (They did not stay that way for long.)
57. Pretended to be a superhero (Oh, yes - we played pretend all the time when I was little.)
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day (Love.)
60. Played touch football (In high school. It was less than impressive.)
61. Gone scuba diving (I love snorkeling so my guess is I'd also like deeper adventures.)
62. Kissed in the rain (Extremely high on the 'must do' list.)
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theatre
66. Visited the Great Wall of China

67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken (I hope this happens.)
69. Toured ancient sites (Need to get to ancient sites.)
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married (If 68 happens, then this one might have a shot.)
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced (No desire to do this.)
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted a river
82. Been on a television news program as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason (Recently! Yay for Doug!)
84. Performed on stage (Junior high and high school - I was the caterpillar in Alice and a fairy godmother in a princess story.)
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music (High school choir - we were actually quite good.)
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date (Recently! Yay for Will!)
89. Gone to Thailand (I don't know that I'll get there for work though.)
90. Bought a house (Twice!)
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently (This shames me as the vast majority of my colleagues speak at least 2 languages.)
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children (Maybe...)
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold (It's the oddest sensation, but not one I'd want to repeat.)
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country (Stanley Park in Vancouver doesn't count as exotic or foreign, does it?)
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (I'm counting my post-doc as this one. Because it was hard and scary.)
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge (Driven! Not walked.)
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking with the windows open (If someone is singing with you, it's rather fun.)
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication (All academic.)
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray (They're sort of spongey.)
110. Broken someone’s heart (I don't think so. I hope not.)
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a TV game show
113. Broken a bone (Dislocated my knee! But nothing broken.)
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears (Not even my ears.)
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol (Dad owns a shotgun - I've never fired it.)
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse (When I was little. Horses are freaking huge.)
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (I've been there. But did not hike to the bottom - that's really far.)
122. Slept for 30 hours in a 48 hour period (I'm good, but not that good.)
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. States
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days (That would involve camping, right? I don't like camping.)
126. Eaten kangaroo meat (NO! Why would someone do that?!)
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school (I've kept going to school. But never gone back after a break.)
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach (Horrible.)
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read (Dorothy Parker - totally worth it. Charles Dickens - less so.)
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions (So far, so good - no plans to break the trend.)
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language (On a train in Japan when I visited the first time - we used his computer translator. It was completely delightful.)
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream (Not all of it, but a large part of it.)
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair (It always freaks me out.)
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident (It took me a while to learn to drive well. I'm fine now though!)
150. Saved someone’s life

To Do (When getting things done, it's good to have a prioritized list.)
- Kiss in the rain (or snow - we have to be seasonally friendly)
- Take candlelight bath with someone
- Walk up the stairs in the Leaning Tower of Pisa & Ride gondola in Venice & Tour ancient sites (same trip - Italy is obviously critical and efficient!)
- Visit Ireland
- See Northern Lights & Watch meteor shower (Can I do this in one evening? Or do they not happen together?)
- Go scuba diving & Swim with dolphins (This seems like a beachy vacation - I can get that done.)
- Touch an iceberg
- Go to Thailand
- Get inside Great Pyramid
- Take hot air balloon ride (I'm a little afraid of this.)
- Dance like a fool and not care what people think
- Fall in love and don't have heart broken (These last ones are a little beyond my control so while they're likely the most important, they go at the bottom because I like to set myself up for success.)
- Get married
- Raise some children


"Wow," Sibling said as I pulled neatly to the curb and stopped, reaching to press the unlock button so she could get her luggage and catch a plane.

"What?" I asked, thinking my driving was good but not necessarily worthy of comment. I nodded with understanding when she nodded at the couple on the sidewalk and winced a little when she bit his lip. He seemed fine with it though, apparently trying to suck her face right off her head.

"I don't do that," Sibling said, shaking her head and I giggled.

"I was just thinking that people would have reasons to say our team was overly close if that's how we said good-bye before Christmas. So I'm not even going to shake your hand - let's just wave politely." She laughed and we did wave and I turned to pull away before rolling my eyes at the couple again.

"Goodness," I murmured as she wrapped her leg around him and turned to check my blind spot before pulling into traffic and heading back to work.

There is something deliciously romantic about winter. Curling up in front of fires or snuggling under fluffy comforters. Holding hands so I don't slip on the ice or watching someone slip out of a coat and wondering what might come off later. I love sweaters and suit jackets on men and am fond of wearing tights with dresses or cozy cardigans.

So I was thinking - as I drove home from the airport and when I was awake at 1AM and again as I scolded Chienne not to pull me as I waddled across the icy patches on sidewalks - about boundaries and preferences and things I don't do.

I'm fine with seeing more than one man. For me, it seems sensible to divide my focus so that I don't get too serious too quickly. I'm not evaluating anyone for marriage potential and therefore it's delightful to go out. Given that I used to keep a running tally ('did not open my door - minus 1,' 'did not pause between two boring stories to see if I wanted to talk - minus 2,'), it's so much easier to just relax and see how I feel at a high level than averaging scores over email ability, conversation over drinks, manners over dinner and aptitude at ending the evening.

I am apparently not OK with sex without establishing a solid relationship. I'm not sure I have to be in love, per se, but I can't do casual. I say this definitively because I've tried and failed. I can't relax. It's kind of awful.

My level of public displays doesn't seem to vary between personal and professional. If walking, I like to tuck my arm through his elbow. I like hugs and am happy to kiss cheeks. I'll do that with colleagues as affectionately as I do with dates. (Our group is, in fact, a pretty friendly bunch of people.)

I don't mind having men over, which isn't surprising. I love my house and, apart from Chienne demanding attention and putting her paws in non-ideal places sometimes, it's a comfortable place to spend some time. I'm relaxed here which makes conversation smoother and allows for holding hands. I have a thing for men's hands - strength and elegance - so I'm very fond of tracing his fingers or playing with his watch.

What I find both fascinating and frustrating is the lack of an overall plan. I realized as I walked around the neighborhood that it's hard to have a sense of location when my head is firmly down, looking for the next good place to step. The pace is slow and my stride clumsy and I lose my balance more often than I'd like. But I trudge around outside every morning because I love my spoiled canine.

And I go out and nudge at my boundaries and try to understand what to do and what I want because it's both exhilirating and exhausting. Because I know how a really amazing first date goes and how delighted I am to get flowers. That I'm completely charmed (and flustered) when interrupted mid-sentence with a kiss.

Having not dated for years - embracing the solitude and growing up a bit - I find I'm better at this now than I once was. But I have no plans to simulate sex with anyone outside the airport. Just FYI.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Futility of Resistance

"I'm going to turn you down," I wrote this morning, exhausted and overwhelmed with what has been an intense and difficult week. I have had very early and very late meetings. I have had vicious and lengthy arguments. I've had precious little sleep and too much exposure to people, leaving me easily disgruntled.

"Are you glad I came?" Doug asked as we sat together on my loveseat and watched television after eating a dinner I made. I smiled, glancing across the room at the flowers he brought me, the arrangement festive and happy and sweet, and replied in the affirmative. Resting my head on his shoulder, I started my next phone call, listening quietly as I laid my fingertips on his wrist.

It's simultaneously wonderful to know someone so sweet and attentive and awful to not be sure about growing more serious. So there's futility somewhere in this dating exercise but hell if I know which side it's on.


"She makes me feel old," I told Sibling as we walked toward the coffee shop in search of peppermint mochas. "I was telling my mom that I remembered being like her. Full of ideas and passion and this sense of urgent frustration that we weren't working harder or doing more." I sighed.

"We're cynical now," Sibling offered when I lapsed into silence and I nodded.

"Given that I'm so tired, I was so tempted to be impatient," I confessed. "But that's not what I want her impression to be. So I said a prayer and took deep breaths and focused on listening. And she had good ideas. They're not new ideas - we've all suggested them at one point - but I think it's important to keep the dream alive. To hope that some new energy and enthusiasm can trigger even a small change that means we're more effective to someone. Somewhere."

"Good for you," Sibling decided and I accepted her praise with a smile. "Are you getting whipped cream?" she asked as we waited in line.

"Totally," I replied. "With chocolate syrup on top."


"Do what you need to do," I whispered, leaving a meeting to take a phone call and throwing up my hand when I realized I had 50 emails to read and another call beeped impatiently in the background. "I think it's a bad idea, but I don't have time to discuss it anymore!"

But I dreamed about it - how the team did what they wanted and I thought it was wrong and the world melted around us into some puddle of catastrophe. So I left another meeting and put a different call on hold today and prepared to battle once more.

I reminded myself to be kind - that I'm blessed in my professional and personal life and want to make others feel good, not swipe at them as if I am an angry bear or rabid elephant. I complimented their efforts. I understood their analysis. I offered to help them continue it. And I reiterated that they were pursuing a non-ideal solution.

Then I sagged in relief when they finally agreed. I avoid dripping disaster after wading through the puddle of catastrophe for one more day. In doing so, I realized once again that it was not because I outranked them and that sarcasm and derision had a non-ideal effect. Though frustratingly inefficient, the best way through these situations is patience, understanding and an open mind.


Finally, let's talk medication. This week was difficult - busy and fraught with tension and exhausting - but I was awake before 6AM and out the door well before 8 each morning. I put my head down and made sure to attend meetings, participate in dialogue, pray for patience to deal with challenging colleagues. I need to selectively inhibit my serotonin reuptake in order to function. So I'm careful to swallow a pill each night so that I'm able to travel and work and interact with people I find funny and smart and otherwise compelling.

Trying to get around that is - for me - just silly.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I frowned at the screen and muttered under my breath as I zoomed and windowed and scowled.

"It's so noisy," I murmured and a colleague walked over to stare over my shoulder. He nodded when I glanced back at him. "Poor algorithm can't make sense of it," I said sympathetically, tentatively adjusting some parameters and shaking my head at the persistent failure.

"Wow," I murmured a moment later, having opened a different program and running the same data through a prototype version of processing. And the results appeared as if by magic - not a single speck of failure to be found.

"How'd you fix it?" my colleague asked, swiveling in his chair across the lab.

"I didn't," I replied with a shrug. "But this new algorithm implements some normalization step. So it seems to be understanding the noise and canceling it out - making sense out of chaos via complicated math!" Unreasonably proud of the code, I beamed at the screen and patted the side of the monitor affectionately. "I wonder if it's right," I mused, slightly skeptical of the beautiful results in contrast with the previous crap.

In other news, I feel better.

I have rearranged my calendar through sheer force of will. I have slept and worked and curled up and watched the snow. I answered those questions that seemed impossibly hard. Wrote and reviewed documents. Thought through some personal issues. Tried to figure out what I want and where I'm going and how to embrace the imperfection and relax.

I've normalized. And hope to stick with this new algorithm.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best Laid Plans

I realized I was mildly depressed last week when I was taking a bath. Sitting in my tub, water warm around my hips, I reached for one of the orbs in the green dish perched in the corner and lowered it into the water before me, watching as it fizzled and dissolved.

My standard operating procedure is to recline while the bath fizzie scents the water, lowering my eyelids and enjoying the temperature and texture of relaxing in the water. This time I stayed upright, hair that had escaped my ponytail tickling my shoulders, and observed the sphere as it grew smaller.

Bubbles emerged on the surface of the water as I held the source of fizzling blue in my cupped palms. I admired the gentle paisley patterns as the water before me turned a pretty blue-green. As the color deepened, the orb shrank into nothing. The gentle hiss of dissolution ceased. And I closed my eyes and relaxed, submerging my shoulders and the stray locks of hair in the water.

I have thought of late of that bath orb - how it existed and then it didn't, all in the matter of moments easily ignored. Granted, my mood - slow and sensitive and alternately gently sad or vibrantly angry - shifts thoughts toward the random and makes correlations where they don't naturally exist. But when thinking of plans - both professional and personal - I picture my calendar in Outlook or emails written to friends. And the times and places they once defined have also dissolved. Letters and numbers that once stood proudly as a cohesive plan crumble into their individual components and I picture them tumbled at the bottom of the page, jumbled constants and digits and vowels, punctuation slipping past the bottom margin as it finds spaces between the lines and curves.

Too poetic and vague? I understand - here's what happened, out of order.

I missed work last week, unable to tolerate people in person. I tell myself I did the important calls, covered the critical priorities, but remain stressed and afraid as I picture digging myself out next week. I am defensive when people note that I failed to do what I said I would. Angry when they ask again when I remember the first question. I just can't seem to gather my thoughts sufficiently to answer it.

I invited Will for lunch. Any plans made within 24 hours are considered wildly spontaneous in my world - I had no real expectation of snacking or sex. The stolen moments appealed to me though - tucking a bit time between meetings and before flights to converse and laugh and exchange flirtatious glances. So, once confirmed, I showered and dressed, smoothing on lotion then stockings, twirling to admire the flow of my dress, curling my hair so that it tumbled in charming disarray. The moments of delicious anticipation congregated into hours of television and work and watching the fire. (Which was pleasant in and of itself so this is the least upsetting of our vignettes.)

I should currently be much farther south, smoothing the coats of pretty cats and making a face as I devised a way to awaken Friend without risking her wrath. (There is no way. I'd risk the wrath.) Instead, I remain in the land of snow, my backpack - so carefully and lightly packed - resting forlornly inside the door from the garage, my sweater tossed downstairs as I decide whether to launder or toss it as it contains vomit stains from my will-remain-untold sick moments in the airport bathroom. Wiping away tears in the late afternoon yesterday, both from my migraine and disappointment, I retreated to the parking garage and made my way carefully home. No cheese biscuits. No Greek food. No sharing space on the sofa with Friend, doing work and trading stories and spending time with someone I miss and adore. Instead, I took Tylenol and Advil, turned on the shower and curled on my bathroom floor in case I was sick again.

I met Doug for dinner, having meticulously planned a time to meet and have dinner and drive through twinkling Christmas lights. Meetings ran long inside and snow fell outside, conspiring to make me late. Time, both together and apart, was spent in the car, though lights were from traffic, not holiday decor. I asked if we could change dinner locations as I didn't want to drive in the snow and he gracefully agreed. We wound up watching television, our change in plans resulting in catching the end of The Big Bang Theory, but I ended the evening shoving the snowblower through gusting winds instead of snuggling on my sectional.

I shifted the direction of the snowblower's spout countless times as I attempted to clear driveway and sidewalks. But the wind would change directions - or perhaps I was walking directly into it - and I ended up sputtering as I was coated with snow. I would pause each time, lean down and turn the handle so that the spout rotated, try to find a dry bit of fabric to clean my glasses, and rumbled on again. Only to become freshly coated with a new layer of frozen water.

Deciding I would make a good abominable snow monster, I finished my chore, cold but cheerful. I suppose - if there is a take-away - that would be the lesson. There are times when all the organization and confirmation won't work - you're working against forces of nature or brain chemistry or urgent needs of family or work.

So I'm destined, apparently, to spend the weekend alone as I wade through the mess I've created of my calendar and attempting to make sense of the letters and numbers, dashes and dots, to catch up at work. I'll reschedule dates and try again for missed plans. Oh, and if you throw up on yourself and cry? Some airlines will waive change fees so you can go see Friend another time.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Answer: Very

How flattered was I that Carolyn called me a Versatile Blogger?

According to the rules, I should share 7 facts you're unlikely to find elsewhere.
  1. A colleague and friend's last day was today. I was on a call when she came by and I barely stopped myself from clinging to her and begging her not to go. I hate being left.
  2. I had not been kissed on a first date until fairly recently. I thought I was missing out and I was totally right.
  3. Chienne's good eye looks bad. I hate that there's little I can do to prevent complete blindness but know my girl will handle it much better than I would.
  4. People can make me laugh even when I'm feeling anxious and isolated and quite unwell. If only I could force myself to partake of company when I'm depressed, it might lift much faster.
  5. I have been depressed this week. I've started a few posts to tell you about it but deleted them all. I struggled. It was hard. I think I'm doing better.
  6. When struggling to cope, I can escape into blogs and books and find I'm able to relax - at least a little - by spending time with someone's thoughts even when I'm alone at home.
  7. I'm struck by how happy I've been lately - granting favors, giving smiles, waving off offenses. This week has been the opposite - I've refused and complained and pointed out weaknesses. I hate that I spread unhappiness when I am sad and very much hope I'm done doing that now.
How great is my affection for spaces places that are inspiring and lovely and beautifully written? Filled with character and challenges and this amazing grace?

  1. it's probably me
  2. The Bean Chronicles
  3. dirt and rocks
  4. More than a Minivan Mom
  5. mamapundit
  6. Now, what was I doing?
  7. You Win Some, You Learn Some

I've read some of these for years and consider the authors as bloggy friends. Others have been more recent additions to my reader and the women who write them are strangers to me, albeit strangers who have made me think and cry and pray and giggle. All are exquisitely written. And how highly recommended?

Sunday, December 05, 2010


"That didn't work," I muttered, scampering to catch up with my friend from college. My camera has a nighttime setting, denoted with a sliver of moon but I always (seriously - without fail) blurred the first shot before I would arrange my facial features into a mask of concentration, scold my hands to steady and try again.

"Too cold to deal with it," I replied when she offered to wait while I tried again. The wind was strong and breathtakingly cold and I found I didn't care enough to get a proper exposure.

As I rest and unpack and sort through pictures from Chicago, I find many photos are unsteadily shot. There's a certain watercolor-dreaminess to some of them though. As if I was entranced with the light in some state of intoxication, but unable to capture anything but the essence of it as it reflected off the river and illuminated the night.

"Embrace the imperfection," I murmured this morning as I resized and rotated the images. I've avoided work, though I could have spent hours replying to email and initiating new conversations. I have slept and thought and rearranged my living room as my new sectional (!!) came with a rather large ottoman that blocked most paths through the room when sitting 5 inches from the loveseat's ottoman. I decided the 'find another path or put your feet up!' theme wasn't working well, though it did amuse me to watch dog and cat make their way from couch to loveseat without setting paw on the carpet.

I started several posts but lost track of my point. As You Mean To Go On told of the first snow blowing of the season, a chore I enjoy wholeheartedly as the bright red machine happily chugs along, spraying the white fluff high in the sky so it shimmers in the sunlight. It was also meant to serve as a reminder that improper coverage in the beginning results in foot-high blocks of ice at the end of the driveway that copious amounts of whining will make your dad tackle on a wintertime visit. "Did you get the flare at the end of your driveway?" he asked when he called yesterday. "Go out and check again."

Random Bullets of Romance chronicled some fun fantasies and was a bit racy, but I didn't finish it. (The post, not the... never mind.) Practically, I'm trying to relax into dating. It's a bit uncomfortable - despite my protestations of being ready and at a place in my life that makes sense - to allow a man entry into mind, body, heart.

If it's right, I'll know.

I scowl at the frisson of fear that emerges - it's so nice to have someone to talk to/think about - and I'm not eager to lapse into solitude again. But if I made it through my twenties without latching onto the 'he's better than nobody' philosophy*, I vehemently refuse to apply that now. Everything gets blurred - affection and sex, companionship and intimacy - but I'm reasonably smart. I'll figure it out.
*Both men I'm seeing are exquisite individuals - I don't think I'd be settling with either of them. But just because someone is all kinds of wonderful doesn't necessarily mean our futures should align. Right? Right.

Speaking of, Future went professional after an interesting discussion with Adam over lunch. We talk enough that he knows what I want to do next and, in true Adam fashion, has manipulated people and events so that it's likely I'll get to do it. I find the idea bittersweet - I adore my job and my circle of colleagues. The gentle comfort that I've grown good at this. Given my talent and passion in Industry though, my ambition and affection for power means I must gain new skills, attempt new challenges and keep an eye on upward mobility. It's scary - and the timing is TBD - but in a good way.

"Oh, I'm festive!" I cried to my parents as I talked to them while driving home on Thursday. They'd already driven home but had carefully prepared the house for me - snow blower repaired, new furniture arranged, lights draped across the porch and tree perched on the kitchen table. "Look at my bows!" I exclaimed happily, blinking back tears while I admired the floppy red decorations tied to the garage lights as I pulled the Jeep inside. "Thank you," I offered. "I just love it."

Smallest One called yesterday, full of requests for presents and descriptions of where she'd seen toys - either on television or in stores. I listened to her earnest explanations, giggling at times and making notes. We go overboard at Christmas - love translating materialistically to bunches and bunches of stuff. Still, there's snow to blow and carols to sing and blurry photos of lights to take. It's a happy time of year, hence the drafted post entitled Joy.

I'm unlikely to finish any of them, of course, especially now that I've hit the high points and decided, of course, to embrace the imperfection. But I did want to say hello (Hi!) and get a December post on record.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I happily accepted the invitation to dinner, knowing all the while that I'd be tired and facing my not-atypical evening crankiness. But I've not eaten on the 95th floor of anything before. And as I'm attempting to expand my horizons, it seemed like something that should be experienced.

The past few days, lingering cold and forgotten anti-depressants notwithstanding, have been wonderful. I wore a low-cut dress yesterday, finally abandoning my tugs at the neckline and admitting that the new garment was designed to fit that way and I was, in fact, showing off my breasts and there wasn't a lot to be done about it. Luckily, my meetings were mostly internal so I knew the men who would glance down from eye contact and rolled my eyes at most of them. I accepted female compliments on my pretty red shoes and smiled and laughed and chatted the day away.

I wore the same dress to dinner, deciding I might as well continue the look and paused when washing my hands to shake my head at my exposed curves. "No, it's not risque for normal women," I recalled my comment to a colleague when I asked her if I and the dress were inappropriate. "It's just unusual for me and I'm very conscious of it." The poor outfit may join the ranks of another 'really pretty but nowhere to wear it' gray dress. But, for the evening I did let the hem flirt with my knees and (mostly) embraced feeling a little bit sexy with my daring neckline.

I dressed not for comfort or style the next day, but came to work, crisply pressed (ironed, one might say) suit with a soft sweater beneath. And work we did - my feet beginning to ache in my comfortable flats as I answered questions and giggled at jokes and did my best to be adorable and charming and intensely intelligent. I congratulated myself on impressing both the familiar and novel as the frequency of handshakes slowed and I was finally able to emerge into the rain and make my way back to the hotel.

I was here for mere moments, exchanging my now-slightly-wrinkled jacket for a more forgiving cashmere sweater, washing my face and applying more powder before prancing downstairs so the friendly people under the heat lamps could hail a cab and open my door for me. I proceeded to the Sears Tower (apparently we boycott its new name - sorry about that, Willis), overtipped my driver and met my party before beginning the security procedures that would allow us entry.

I tried to be subtle about taking photos but I'd never been there and did think it pretty. I had white wine and a nice steak, pumpkin soup to start and pumpkin cheesecake to finish. I talked and laughed some more, answered questions and asked some of my own, before we called it an early night. Thrilled with the idea of being in bed before 11, I tucked my arm through that of my companion, located several levels above me in the business hierarchy and politely declined his invitation for a drink when we returned to the lobby.

I frowned at him when he continued to coax me, saying I was tired and still not feeling great and if he wanted to talk to me, he should have seated himself closer at dinner (for I know I'm delightful and people do enjoy my company). (I'm kidding.) I am apparently easily manipulated or overly permissive because we sat with knees touching as I sipped a strawberry champagne cocktail and chatted about strategy. "I'll get it," he said when I opened my purse in search of lip gloss and he mistook the search for money. "Of course you will," I replied cheekily. "You're lucky I came at all and I'm prettier than you are."

"Both are true," he gallantly agreed, so, a little tipsy, I kissed his cheek before heading upstairs and shooing him toward another group of colleagues across the room.

I nearly overslept for the next day, emerging from my room rumpled and rushed for my 7:00 breakfast meeting. Blackberry humming against my hip most of the day - announcing the next meeting before I was finished with the previous, demanding answers to questions and quick introductions - I began to drag when having to deliver unpleasant news or engage in difficult conversations. It was an important and productive day, but it drained me of all energy.

"What do you like about Italian food?" the concierge asked when I requested a reservation for the evening. I stared at her blankly and she kindly made the question multiple choice and called Volare with my full support.

"I've been there," I told her. "I had a cheesy chicken risotto that I've craved ever since." Determined to enjoy the evening - the one most eagerly anticipated of this trip - I came upstairs to shower and shore up energy before meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends. I blinked back tears upon hugging her tightly in the lobby, we talked and giggled over a delicious meal and nice bottle of white, and traded questions and stories about financial planning and important careers and boys. And, much like the cheesy chicken risotto, I wished the conversation in the busy little restaurant would never end.

I was snuggled under fluffy white blankets soon after I hugged her goodbye with a firm mental promise to see her again soon. She makes me happy. The city sparkled outside in the bitter cold and I felt I'd experienced bits of it over the evenings - north, south and center - and was happily exhausted.

I wish I had time to shop and wander the streets, taking photos that weren't through windows. I wish I could solve all the problems that exist at work, for the people I've met are exquisitely smart and capable and kind. I wish someone were here with me, for flirting over email isn't nearly as good as kissing and touching in person. I wish I had remembered my anti-depressants, for my head aches and is bothered by snippets of obsessive worry and irrational paranoia at times, though it's mostly under control for I know its cause. I wish even my most comfortable flats didn't make my feet wince in pain.

Wishes aside though, it's been a wonderful week. While sad to leave Chicago behind tomorrow, I'm always tempted by its proximity and comforted by the routine of visiting again next year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I am cheered, as always, by arriving in Chicago.

"I always liked it, too," Mom sighed when I gushed over my room and the view and the simple luxury - established in childhood - of staying downtown. "Maybe we should come vacation with you rather than Chienne."

We departed early, loading bulky suitcases into large vehicles before making the lengthy-but-not-impossible drive to Lake Michigan. I fretted on the trip, staring out windows and mulling alternatives (or lack thereof, perhaps) and attention (or lack thereof, perhaps) and finally pulled laptop from bag to distract myself from being maudlin.

I beamed at the man behind the counter when he welcomed me to the city and hotel. When he offered an upgrade to a river view, I nearly fluttered my eyelashes at him before I recalled that wasn't overly impressive. I instead deemed him my favorite person for the day and was pleased when he grinned and ducked his head in appreciation.

I literally gave three happy bounces upon tossing my smaller bag on the first of the beds, deliciously soft and fluffy and bright white. I tossed aside the sheers and caught my breath, looking to the right (and quickly adjusting the gray armchair so that it faces that way) to admire the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Towers. The river glimmers green and my room is perched low enough to the ground that I can hear the cars honk and sirens wail on Wacker Drive.

I currently sit by my window, having taken more photos like the one above but in the changing light and fluid traffic, and prepared for the week ahead. I crave certainty, I admitted - once articulated, the sentence, 'I want to love someone who loves me back,' echoes endlessly in my mind. I don't know how to get there - I never have - and want to have faith that it will happen if the person and timing and chemistry are right. In the meantime, I'm trying to coach myself to stay in the moment - to enjoy what is, to not wish for what might be and to accept avoidance and annoyance with some degree of grace.

I hope this week helps with that - the opportunity to dress up for work, to have dinner some 100 floors above street level, to drink and giggle with friends and charm colleagues. To freeze in flirty dresses and soft tights and iron suits I don't wear often. And, when there's a pause, to make peppermint tea to soothe my sore throat, take cold medicine for my continued cough and achy ears, and stare out the window toward Michigan Avenue, watching the cars drive over adorable bridges and the river reflect the light that emanates from or sneaks between the buildings above.